“Fans attending Major League Baseball games are being greeted in a new way this year: with metal detectors at the ballparks. Touted as a counterterrorism measure, they’re nothing of the sort. They’re pure security theater: They look good without doing anything to make us safer. We’re stuck with them because of a combination of buck passing, CYA thinking and fear.” Baseball’s new metal detectors won’t keep you safe. They’ll just make you miss a few inningsis an outstanding take-down of MLB’s “gun-free zones” in a paper otherwise dedicated to civilian disarmament (go figure). The WaPo article goes a little something like this . . .

As a security measure, the new devices are laughable. The ballpark metal detectors are much more lax than the ones at an airport checkpoint. They aren’t very sensitive — people with phones and keys in their pockets aresailing through — and there are no X-ray machines. Bags get the same cursory search they’ve gotten for years. And fans wanting to avoid the detectors can opt for a “light pat-down search” instead.

There’s no evidence that this new measure makes anyone safer. A halfway competent ticketholder would have no trouble sneaking a gun into the stadium. For that matter, a bomb exploded at a crowded checkpoint would be no less deadly than one exploded in the stands. These measures will, at best, be effective at stopping the random baseball fan who’s carrying a gun or knife into the stadium. That may be a good idea, but unless there’s been a recent spate of fan shootings and stabbings at baseball games — and there hasn’t — this is a whole lot of time and money being spent to combat an imaginary threat.

OK, the “it may be a good idea” bit fits the WaPo’s anti-gun agenda. And Security Technologist Bruce Schneier doesn’t once make the pro-gun-rights-in-stadia argument. Which completely neglects an important downside of turning stadia into civilian disarmament zones: what happens on the way to and from a major sporting event. It’s a bad, bad thing (e.g., here, here and  here).

While it helps, you don’t have to be a gun guy to see how Schneier’s destruction of the “logic” underpinning the stadia gun ban applies to gun bans generally. To wit:

It’s an attitude I’ve seen before: “Something must be done. This is something. Therefore, we must do it.” Never mind if the something makes any sense or not.

In reality, this is CYA security, and it’s pervasive in post-9/11 America. It no longer matters if a security measure makes sense, if it’s cost-effective or if it mitigates any actual threats. All that matters is that you took the threat seriously, so if something happens you won’t be blamed for inaction. It’s security, all right — security for the careers of those in charge.

American gun rights shouldn’t end at the ballpark gates – especially if the venue is financed with public money. Blood in the stands! Yeah, sure. Just like it was for the last God-knows-how-many years . OK, let’s pivot . . .

In a previous life, TTAG’s Testing and Reviews Editor Nick Leghorn did risk analysis for the Department of Homeland Security. The other day, Nick and I were discussing forthcoming terrorist attacks on American soil. Nick told me he wasn’t all that concerned about the socio-political effects of a Mumbai-style attack on a mall or other crowded area – although he’d hate to see it happen.

“What I worry about is college football games,” Nick said.

Black Sunday?” I asked.

“Like that,” he answered. “Without the blimp.”

Over the Post, Schneier poo-pooed the possibility of a terrorist bomb attack at a major sporting event.

There’s no evidence that this new measure makes anyone safer. A halfway competent ticketholder would have no trouble sneaking a gun into the stadium. For that matter, a bomb exploded at a crowded checkpoint would be no less deadly than one exploded in the stands. These measures will, at best, be effective at stopping the random baseball fan who’s carrying a gun or knife into the stadium. That may be a good idea, but unless there’s been a recent spate of fan shootings and stabbings at baseball games — and there hasn’t — this is a whole lot of time and money being spent to combat an imaginary threat.

But imaginary threats are the only ones baseball executives have to stop this season; there’s been no specific terrorist threat or actual intelligence to be concerned about. MLB executives forced this change on ballparks based on unspecified discussions with the Department of Homeland Security after the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013. Because, you know, that was also a sporting event.

Yes. Yes it was. And it wasn’t imaginary.

Question: do you really want to trust your life to the ability of stadia security staff and three-letter feds to detect and deter a terrorist bomb threat at a major sporting event? I don’t. Call me paranoid, but armed or unarmed, police snipers or not, I’m not going there. You?

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51 Responses to Sports Stadia Civilian Disarmament Zones – Don’t Go There

  1. Bruce Schneier is one of the finest minds fighting against the creeping security state. The fact that he can use logic and reasoning to destroy the idea of stadium metal detectors is wonderful. Let’s face it: fighting stadium bans on weapons just isn’t politically feasible because “everyone” will be drinking and so there SHOULD be a blanket ban. It’s the same way many CCWs prohibit carrying into a bar or 51% alcohol sales- even IF you are sober!

    Trying to make the armed defender argument in stadiums is doomed to failure with the general public, as most people will equate stadiums with bars. Sad but true. I’ve attended a number of games that ended up in somewhat sketchy environments or situations. Until people STOP looking to the government to solve other people’s idiocy, this will persist. Schneier is smart to take the tack that he does, as it’s utterly reasonable and irrefutable.

      • “So, “shall not be infringed, unless you’re drinking,” then?”

        Nah, just no intoxicated engineers…

        (You know how those bastards can get… 🙂 )

        Good to see you posting again, peirsonb.

        🙂

      • So, “shall not be infringed, unless you’re drinking,” then?

        Not in Pennsylvania. As I’ve said before, truly amazing.

  2. I’m wasn’t going to any professional games before and won’t be in the future. This is just another reasin in a long list of why not. We do giant format graphics installation yearly for a NFL team. Security has been a joke. Even on game days when they bring in the sheriff’s dept and city police and go into lock down mode it’s a joke. The amount of food and beverage trucks, grounds keeper personal, and other contractors doing everything else a stadium will never be close to terror resistant. Guns or other weapons could be stashed inside for use at a game very easily. We never enter while working without our daily carry weapons. We are never screened. They will mirror under the viehicle for bombs but only look inside through a window. They have never opened any of the crates or boxes inside.
    On game day they go all out. There are APV’s, bomb squad bomb container trailer, all the cops dressed in black etc. Security theater at its finest.

    • “The amount of food and beverage trucks, grounds keeper personal, and other contractors doing everything else a stadium will never be close to terror resistant.”

      I have pointed this out before. Does security staff X-ray every pickle bucket that comes in? … every sealed (glued) cardboard box of frozen hotdogs or hamburgers? Of course not. I cannot think of a better way to smuggle in a large amount of handguns and ammunition than in a 5 gallon pickle bucket.

  3. I guess I won’t be going to any MLB games. I haven’t gone for a while anyway. Basically, other than government buildings that I have to go to, I either carry, or don’t go there. Screw MLB!

  4. Yeah, probably. We like to go to a hockey game a few times a year. Do i at least get credit for griping about it and feeling uncomfortable unarmed?

    • Not unless you criticize, debate, and make such a fuss as to make people uncomfortable. Discomforting people may be worth something, but if you are going along with it to the point that you aren’t at least attacking the edges of the status quo, then no, your “discomfort” is like the “discomfort” that Jews may have had about having to register with the state. Too little, and soon to be too late.

    • I give you credit for going at all, given the prevailing attitude in these comments. I am not avoiding public places, even GFZs, for fear of a terrorist attack, flash mob or whatever, unless a threat is credible and imminent. I know a lot of people who avoid major sports events because they hate crowds and paying inflated ticket prices. But if you refuse to go because there may be trouble, the terrorists win (there, I said it). Go, stay alert, have an exit plan, and have fun.

  5. No, I refuse to go to any college or major league sports games. Aside from risk inside the stadium, there is a huge risk going to and from the stadium because all of those stadiums are in major urban population centers — where almost all violent crime occurs in the United States.

    And as the author pointed out, all a spree killer has to do is attack at the security screening choke point.

    Not only has college and major league sports lost my ticket sales, they have lost the ticket sales for my entire family.

  6. Last year I visited the Coca Cola exhibit in Atlanta and forgot to leave a 2.75 inch folding knife in the car. Well after going through the pay gate, comes the “no weapons of any type allowed” sign. Do I walk back 5 blocks in the heat and loose the place on line or take the chance? Took the chance through the metal detector. Walked right through. On the one hand I was glad not to lose the knife. On the other hand, with hundreds of innocents, mostly kids, crowded into small spaces during the tour, what a wonderful target for a jihadist. That really bothered me. A jihadist would not have needed to get in past the metal detectors. Just throw grenades in from the periphery at the compact, snaking line waiting to get through security. Blast the runners with the real AK that came in from Mexico. There were not many police visible. Black Sunday and The Sum of Our Fears (the book, not the movie) are not implausible. And like in those stories, it will be at a football game. Many foreign countries have adopted basketball (and Coca Cola), some have adopted baseball, but outside of the bit in Canada and Australia, none have adopted US football, and that makes it a pure attack on the American Satans. (Dear FBI/NSA doubtless reading. I am not a jihadi terrorist. Nor am I paranoid. I hope that you have plans to counter this eventuality. Focus on those guys and leave the rest of us out.)

    • I did the same thing when I had to go to the courthouse annex to get a license plate. They have x-ray machines for bags. Too lazy to walk back to the car, even though it wasn’t all that far, I went for it, and my knife made it through.

    • Went to Disney World over spring break. Their security check was so cursory I thought about carrying into the park the next day. And I would have gotten away with it, too.

      • Disney World’s weapon policy is effectively the same as the local multiplex. I’ve carried there every time I’ve gone.
        Even if they find out, generally the worst that can happen is they’ll ask you to go put it in your vehicle. They won’t even trespass you, since the signage at the entrances really isn’t adequate.

        don’t tell anyone, don’t let it be seen, carry always.

    • 2.75″ folding knife is not a weapon. It is an essential everyday tool and I could probably do more damage to someone with my boot. Are you going to ban boots?

    • You might want to read “Enemies, Foreign and Domestic” by Matthew Bracken for an interesting terrorist scenario at a football game.

  7. I used to go to games, but I’ve pretty much given up on them. $80 a seat, $10 for a beer and $8 for a brat that isn’t even as good as the one you can buy for a dollar off the roller grill at the local Kum & Go. The midwest league affiliate for my MLB team is a couple hours down the road, I might head over there a couple times this year. Check out the young pups.

  8. Interesting that there is a carve out for “qualified law enforcement personnel, including off-duty officers, engaged in official duties. ”

    I wonder what makes you “qualified” or “official” ?

    • I actually don’t think its a carve out in the traditional sense. It says off duty in official capacity or something to that effect, so I think it is referring to uniformed officers who are working security at the stadium. They work In uniform and are police officers, but since they are paid by the stadium management it’s technically an “off duty” gig. I didn’t read that as cops coming off duty just to watch the game.

      Either way the entire premise of gun free zones is moronic

      • I think you’re right…”off duty” but working in a uniformed capacity as extra security.

        I’m in Seattle. Interestingly, one of the biggest kerfuffles (what a great word, by the way) at a sports stadium was a few rude, drunken, obnoxious folks that had to be trespassed out of a Seahawks game, along with getting into an angry confrontation with a Seattle police officer outside the stadium sufficient for her to call for backup. 4 Bellevue, WA officers – one of whom got busted for DUI months after this episode. I think it’s episodes like this, not terrorism, that are making sports venues bust out the metal detectors. Another situation where because some people can’t act like responsible adults, the rest of the law-abiding population gets screwed over.

  9. My problem friends, is I have been a season ticket holder for football at one of the nations service academies for over 30 years and on those home game days I can’t even have a gun in the car, let alone in the stadium. While on campus, I have always felt secure with the usual caveats, but the 90 mile round trip with the gun at home has been a sacrifice for the team that has come to bother me more and more over the last few years. It is a choice I make because of my love of the place and people and spectacle, but i wish i didn’t have to choose not to be as prepared. As far as the Pros, they can stick it. And for anyone curious…..GO ARMY!!!!!

    • As a West Point fan, can you explain how it is that in the annual Army – Navy game that the Navy, a bunch of sailors, nearly always beats Army?

      You’d think West Point, where they supposedly train army officers (Field Generals, so to speak) would at least be able to make a good game of it, instead of loosing nearly every year.

      (I have a family member that went to USMA, for some reason he doesn’t like me asking him that… go figure. 🙂 )

      • In the last couple of years, I always retort that the Army actually had to train for a ground war, and not so much for the annual football game against the Navy.

  10. Carrying in a venue during a professional sports activity is illegal in my state, anyway. But I am perfectly fine with not over paying for beer and dealing with a bunch of morons crammed into a small space, security concerns aside.

  11. Haven’t been to a professional ball game in 28 years. NO plans to go to another.(Unless the Cubs win LOL)…

  12. I occasionally get invited to attend corporate events at Red Sox games. After last year, when the wands first came out at Fenway, I had to go stash my gun in the car. This year, I don’t go. Eff em.

    While I was up in a box, we had our own security guy. He was a retired cop from somewhere out on the Cape. He said it was ridiculous. He said, they are prohibiting people from entering with Swiss Army knives.

  13. We share Spurs season tickets with some other couples, and there they wand you and quickly glance inside ladies’ handbags. The wand doesn’t seem very sensitive, since no one ever has to empty their pockets. It’s illegal in TX to carry to a sporting event. The whole town is crazy for the Spurs, so it’s worth it to me to go to the games.

    The arena is in an iffy part of town, so I always take a full size 9, or a .45 with extended mag, depending on mood, instead of my little carry gun, and leave it in the car. Yeah, it might get stolen, but so far I haven’t heard of any breakins where we park our car. I’m not driving in that area unarmed.

  14. I would be more upset, if baseball wasn’t such a gawdawful boring sport. Last pro baseball game I attended was in the late 90s at Camden yards, which is in occupied territory anyway, so no guns were ever allowed anyway. And the game was as boring as the rest of them.

    The only good thing about it was the lady lawyer I was snogging.

    F**k pro sports held in gun-free arenas.

  15. “As a security measure, the new devices are laughable. The ballpark metal detectors are much more lax than the ones at an airport checkpoint. They aren’t very sensitive — people with phones and keys in their pockets aresailing through — and there are no X-ray machines.”

    I can verify that.

    Last week I was at a round 1 NHL Stanley Cup playoff game in Tampa.

    Magnetometer was set very weak, it barley pipped at me with a pocket full of metal. So they wanded me, I pulled out my tethered keys and wallet.

    Pipped on my wallet. My wallet had a pocket change pouch. The ‘Security’ guy never questioned what was in my wallet. “Wallet? O.K.”

    I could have easily had an NAA Mini in a wallet holster and sailed right through.

    BTW – Concession prices at pro hockey: 11 bucks for a 16 oz can of beer. Seeing that made me glad I quit drinking…

    And the Lightning lost game 1 0-1. Two days later, won game 2 1-5.

    Observation on pro hockey LED video displays: Holy crap! Bright, vibrant, and a decent audio system.

    The real treat for me was the big honking Tesla coils for their synthetic ‘lightning’ . They were getting 25 foot jumps. I love me some MV fun… Tasty!

    • I can second that. Went to baseball game recently. The metal detector failed to detect the large knife in my pocket…

  16. My older brother and friends used to get fantastic unauthorized photos at concerts by a simple expedient: the photographer among them broke his camera down into parts unrecognizable to a security person as belonging to a camera. They’d all take their seats, get out the parts, and when the lights went down for the warm-up band they passed the parts down the line, and in a minute a professional camera was assembled.

    If college kids can think of that for a camera, terrorists can think of it to get past metal detectors. All they have to do is break their devices into pieces small enough to not set off detectors, then assemble it once inside. And if they want to do a bomb, all the easier; powerful bombs can be made with little metal at all, and the pieces easily hidden.

    What a waste of effort.

  17. Why worry? If it happens it happens. Chances are if it does happen no one will see it coming, despite any tactical operator training. If you want to spend the money and go to a game, go to a game. Leave the piece in the car, which is around where you’ll really need it given gang banger tendencies to assault people in parking lots outside of sports venues.

  18. Schneier is great. His new book is a quick read and a great non-technical primer for anyone even remotely interested in privacy and security.

  19. In cyber-security circles Bruce Schneier is something approaching a god. Absolutely great that he’s in the WaPo with this article.

  20. I am no longer willingly go to events and venues I cannot carry. Do not get me started on unarmed, low waged security guard theater, which I compare to a business having empty fire extinguishers and broken fire alarms.

  21. I went to a Ray’s game last year and they’d rolled this out early, much to my surprise. Had to ride the bus back to where I parked, etc. BTW they didn’t bat an eye at my pepper spray, but the guy in front of me surrendered his keychain multitool. what.
    Not even that big a deal to me that the stadium’s a gun free zone on its own, I get it, (I don’t agree with it but I get it) my problem is being disarmed moving between the stadium and my vehicle in downtown St.Pete. Would be nice if they had lockers or something. (though I’m not even sure I’d trust those)

    Tampa Rays are the best team with the worst fans and I’d love to support them more, but the extra security theater makes this a hard sell.

  22. It’s astonishing that people are so blind as to the progression of the police state implemented with TSA and spread to stadiums. Then again this just gives me even more reason to watch at home where the beer is free and the bathroom has no line.

    • Here’s an even better idea: use your time for something productive. Why on earth would anyone waste all that time — ever mind the money, never mind the infringements on your freedom — why the hell would you let them steal two hours of your life that you’ll never get back, to watch over-paid criminals play a children’s game.

      Read a book.

      Clean a gun.

      Learn a skill.

      Paint a wall and watch it dry. Even that is a better use for the time pissed-away on watching sports.

  23. Just went to a local baseball game couple weeks ago, and was surprised to find this.

    I ended up slipping my pocketknife in to my wife’s purse, where it immediately plonked to the bottom. The purse easily survived the cursory glance the security personnel offered it.

  24. In Georgia, if it’s publicly-funded, unless a government authority meets there, it’s actually illegal to ban firearms to licensed carriers. Turner field gets a pass because the Atlanta-Fulton County Recreation authority meets there (or met there once 20 years ago or something), but there’s a coming court battle with the Braves Minor league team, the Gwinnett Braves, since its stadium doesn’t meet the requirements of the law to prohibit firearms.

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