In the aftermath of a mass shooting on a New York City subway train, Mayor Eric Adams floated a high-tech idea: deploy scanners that can spot someone carrying a gun into the transit system before they have a chance to use it. Technology to scan large numbers of people quickly for weapons does exist, and is used now to screen people at places like sports stadiums and theme parks, the Associated Press reports. Security experts say installing such a system in the city’s sprawling, porous subway system in a way that would make a difference would be difficult, if not impossible. The problem wouldn’t necessarily be the technology but the reality that scanners need to be accompanied by human operators to confront people carrying firearms illegally. Adams, a former police captain, has acknowledged the challenges but has said the system might still be worth trying at select locations as a deterrent. The push for better subway security got renewed urgency in April after a gunman set off smoke bombs and sprayed a subway car with shots, wounding 10 people.
On May 22, another gunman killed a passenger in what authorities said appeared to be a random attack. A day after that killing, Adams again expressed interest in weapon-screening technology. In the New York City subway, the screening wouldn’t resemble airport checkpoints, an untenable solution for a system with 472 stations, all with multiple entrances. Instead, Adams referenced a technology that uses sensors to detect metal but also can determine the shape of an object, such as a gun, while people pass by uninterrupted. Identifying someone with a weapon is only half the challenge. “It’s also manpower,” said Donell Harvin, a senior policy researcher at the RAND Corp. and a former security chief for the Washington, D.C., government. Adams has not publicly discussed how much the machines, and operating them, could cost New York City, but Harvin acknowledged the price could be steep.