Thursday, April 15, 2010

Fortress America, meet the Texas capitol: Metal detectors, xrays coming at entrances

So a problem presents itself: After an argument with a state Senate staffer, an angry constituent went outside the building and fired off his gun.

The solution by the state: Put metal detectors at the capitol entrances. The state Preservation Board signed off on that move yesterday, with Gov. Rick Perry the lone dissenter.

The problem with the solution: The shots were actually fired outside. Metal detectors won't stop that. And from a practical standpoint, during peak periods of entrance and egress, large crowds will be waiting to get through the metal detectors so the "solution" would give the shooter more targets. Genius, huh?

I hate this decision. Someone fires off shots outside, but does DPS beef up security patrols outside the capitol as a result? Hell no, they recommend focusing more resources inside the doorway and creating more outdoor targets. It's a non-solution which won't address the problem that inspired it, akin to being attacked by folks in Afghanistan and responding by invading Iraq.

Lt. Governor David Dewhust said this was the "only option" in light of recent events, but that's not remotely true. It's not even an option that's responsive to the particular situation that inspired it.

See related Grits posts:


Anonymous said...

I gotta go with governor goodhair on this one. The knee-jerk reaction you are seeing here is the same one you are seeing at public airports today. As long as it "looks like" they are making an effort to stop terrorism, then that's good enough.

Anonymous said...

I understand the arguments with regard to lines, etc. The problem I see is that I can't believe they didn't already have this type of security in place. It is already in place at almost every courthouse in the state, along with the lines and the waiting, and it addresses realistic concerns.

I have a major concern, and that is the EQUAL implementation. In most courthouses, for example, state employees bypass security, as if they are guaranteed to be more stable that say a defense attorney or a staffer for a private lobby group. They may have completed the same or more extensive background checks, as if that is an accurate gauge of when someone will snap, but they have to go through security while people working for the state walk by with an ID card. Doesn't seem fair or safe.

Bottom line, with the way this governor has treated the public and displayed his ethics, I don't blame people around him for wanting security. Firing a gun on the capitol grounds is mighty close to the next step a few hundred feet away of firing a gun IN the building and lets people who might have already been brewing the thought know it isn't as hard as they think. Just do it fairly, do it right, and don't waste our time with full body scans, removal of all our clothing, or some of the other absurd concepts "security experts" would recommend.

Anonymous said...

Citizen lobbying just got a lot harder.

Shall I throw my shoes at the gatekeepers?

I will now shut up lest lite gov Dewhurst view my comments as a threat to his sorry rump.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

That's really true, 9:04, at both a practical and also a more profound level. A commenter at the Dallas News wrote:

"The rotunda is like a large commons for the entire capitol grounds. During the session, a HS band will be playing, a choir singing, a dance company performing. People wander in and out, including the guided tours. It's the people's building. It's informality is sacred to its sense as a temple to Democracy."

That's exactly my objection; it's like we're defiling a temple, proclaiming that government must now be protected from its people rather than controlled by them.

Anonymous said...

Used to be people had to go through metal detectors when they visited a prisoner. Now, our enemies have made sure we enter our schools and public buildings as if we were entering a prison. They have transformed America.

Don Dickson said...

More "security theatre." I'm curious about this business of allowing CHL holders to carry. Do they brandish their permits and weapons as they go through? Do they go through separately? And isn't the whole idea of "conceal" that you don't have to "reveal?"

You can carry a long gun, too. Can't wait to see that.

All of this silliness would make you laugh if it weren't so unfunny.

Anonymous said...

Yes and if there had been a shooting inside the building then all of the armchair quarterbacks would be looking for hide to hang on the wall and asking why there were no dtectors already in place.

Sometimes politicians just can't win. It's a different animal we are dealing with today when it comes to shootings in our public schools, churches and government buildings.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

10:27 writes: "It's a different animal we are dealing with today"

BS. Two words: Charles Whitman.

Plus, the threat that somebody might get angry enough to shoot a politician has been around forever. Hell, I'm sure this guy wasn't the first person to leave Dan Patrick's office wanting to shoot somebody! It's a complete crock to claim that things have somehow changed to make that more likely.

More importantly, this measure creates many practical problems and still won't stop a crazy person from shooting someone if they want to. Anyone who wants to do so could just wait till the pol exits the building or go to their home.

We had all these same debates after 9/11 and it didn't make sense then after extensive study. Nothing has changed since then. As Donald says, this is security theater.

Anonymous said...

Boy, talking about boiling your blood pressure there Gits my man!

Charles Whitman was an isolated event in the mid 60's. When I speak of a different animal, I'm talking about 1982 to present day. There certainly were not kids bringing guns to schools in the 60's and 70's like they do today. Unless it was some innocent kid who forgot to take his gun out of his truck after weekend squirrel hunt. And that wasn't even a problem then but handled in a totally different manner. Course you can't do that now because of all of the now public school shootings that happen in today's times.

I don't care if they have detectors or not. My point is you you are not going to please everyone as to the measures that are put in place and your reaction is more proof.

BTW, do you blame Whitman for the creation of SWAT?

Don Dickson said...

Even if you subscribe to the notion that a well-armed citizenry is the best defense against criminals and anarchists, you must acknowledge that the criminals and anarchists are always going to fire the first shots. I have grave doubts that the Capitol, or a Southwest flight from Austin to Dallas, or the State Bar office or the courthouse is any safer as a consequence of the "security theatre" that is a feature of each.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

12:41, If your point is that you can't please everyone, that's not really a point at all. These pols were elected to make tough decisions, and when they make them wrong it's up to their constituents to point it out.

As for: "There certainly were not kids bringing guns to schools in the 60's and 70's like they do today."

I don't actually think that's right. In high school (early '80s) I would go hunting before school and routinely show up at school with shotguns in my trunk. (It wasn't that I'd forgotten but went straight to school from the early morning event.) Today that would be viewed as cause for panic; thirty years ago it was the way of the world. The difference is the state wasn't then populated with a bunch of chickenshits - we accepted that life involves risks and didn't let fear overwhelm a commitment to personal freedom.

IMO the end of the Cold War changed all that. Before then, we could point to Russia when heavy handed police tactics were proposed and say "we don't do that, we're not a totalitarian state like them." Now we can blithely implement such policies and conservatives are likely to SUPPORT them instead of reject them as a Soviet-style anathema to freedom. There's no longer an obvious benchmark against which we can easily measure infringements on liberty.

As for Whitman and SWAT, I don't know enough about the linkage to say.

Anonymous said...

4/15/2010 12:41:00 PM said:
"There certainly were not kids bringing guns to schools in the 60's and 70's like they do today."

Yes, there were. I went to school in the 70's in a rural east Texas town, and it wasn't unusual to bring guns to school and store them in the lockers during hunting season. We were in walking distance of plenty of open hunting land, and often went there after school. However, I don't ever recall seeing a shootout during lunchtime.

Mr. Anxiety said...

Regarding putting security inside when the event happened outside: That's not surprising. The response to such events never seems to have anything to do with the actual event.

Someone hijacks a plane with a box cutter? Freak out about hand guns.

Someone shoots up a school with hand guns? Freak out about automatic weapons.

A level-headed and appropriate response is the LAST thing I'd expect to see!

Anonymous said...

Magnetometers now, full scan xray pornshow by the time session opens...Texas has abandoned any claim to common sense...

BlueMoonRising said...

It's amusing (and sadly pathetic) to see the deployment of metal detectors at the Texas Capitol being tied up by the question of how to accommodate people who want to bring their guns into the Capitol now.