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JayMac: Is this new weapon-scanning technology legal?

Guns for sale at The Gun Vault in South Jordan Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2016. (Deseret News file)

DISCLAIMER: the following is an opinion piece and does not necessarily reflect the views of KSL Newsradio or its ownership.

Utah’s Attorney General Sean Reyes says he has signed an agreement with a company that allows testing in the state of a new technology to scan for weapons through a person’s clothing at public events and venues.

The 3D technology, Hexwave, bounces energy pulses off clothing and purses and backpacks and creates 3D images of the concealed items to determine if they are guns, knives, bombs, metallic and non-metallic weapons or other security threats.The scanning system ignores shapes like wallets, cellphones and other harmless items, but it alerts security workers when possible threats are detected. The technology, which can be hidden, could be used at soft targets like concerts, schools, movie theaters, amusement parks, churches, etc.

Safety vs. Privacy

This makes a lot of sense to me where you have to pass through a security checkpoint, like an airport or a courthouse. I welcome it at places like that, but in a place where you have a right to conceal-carry a weapon, how is this security technology going to be used? The part of conceal-carry that’s important to the carrier is “conceal,” and now that has been taken away.

Is it a violation of the 4th amendment against search and seizure?

I’m in a public place when the scanning technology alerts security personnel to a weapon I’m carrying. Am I kicked out of the public place? Do you pull me out of line and ask me if I have a concealed-carry permit? Now I have to prove my innocence. The preassumption of innocence should remain in place until there is a reason not to.

John Mejia of the ACLU of Utah has concerns, too. Particularly the lack of details and public input about the attorney general’s decision to sign on for testing of Atlanta-based Liberty Defense’s new technology in Utah.

“People attending sporting events, festivals, and school campuses in Utah didn’t sign up to be guinea pigs to find defects in a private company’s surveillance system,” he said.

He said the ACLU has long been a proponent of allowing the public to have a say in what technology law enforcement is planning to use to monitor us. Give residents at the local level an opportunity to provide input, he said.

“When you are in public you have a reasonable expectation of privacy from government intrusion. . . to stop you against your will and search you. Law enforcement would have to have a reasonable basis to do that. What we’re talking about here is a mass search of everybody . . . and despite that you’re out in public, that doesn’t mean you don’t have an expectation of privacy of your body and what’s underneath your clothes,” Meija said.

He pointed out that when you go to an airport, there is an expectation that you’re going to be searched for weapons and other threats to security, but that’s not the same situation when you attend a concert, school or church.

He also added that if you use an insulin pump, for example, and that’s not public knowledge, there’s no reason for the police to have that knowledge.

Jay Mcfarland hosts the JayMac News Show, weekdays from 12:30 to 3 p.m. on KSL Newsradio, as well as the fictional podcast, Hosts of Eden. KSL Newsradio is part of Bonneville Media and based in Salt Lake City, Utah.

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