Sunday, March 26, 2017

The Unsafe Strip

News outlets are calling this weekend “chaos on the Strip” in the wake of a burglary where burglars in pig masks terrorized Bellagio in a bizarre incident as they performed a heist at the Tesorini store. The burglary was originally thought to be a shooting as the noise from the glass being broken sounded like gunfire, however, no guns were found. Later that Saturday, a shooting in an RTC bus traveling along the Strip left a person dead and another injured.

One of Las Vegas’ biggest secrets is how fraught with violence the Strip really is. Granted, if you are sober and not engaged in criminal activity (namely pimping and drug dealing) or a gang member, you will probably be fine. However, tourism officials and the gaming industry would like you to think that the Strip is as safe as Disneyland with the addition of booze and skimpy clothing.

Ocean’s Eleven (the Steven Soderbergh version) recounted three supposedly unsuccessful casino robberies. Thieves often hold up casinos’ cages or sportsbooks. It’s no more unusual than a bank robbery. Casinos, downtown Las Vegas, and the resort corridor in Paradise have all fallen victim to these kinds of incidents over the years.

Many in the firearms community discount then need for a firearm while out on the town in Las Vegas. That it is unnecessary and potentially hazardous if you are drinking. Casinos and the other various business generally discourage firearms due to concerns about liability and drunks or a fear of frightening tourists from places where guns are uncommon and thus scaring away gaming dollars.

The reason so few casualties occurred in the bus shooting incident was because the shooter was on the second level of the double-decker bus towards the back. At midday during cool, Spring weather, buses are generally fairly empty. Many passengers were able to evacuate the bus to safety since the shooter was so isolated from other passengers and the exits. Had the shooter chosen the first level and near an exit, the bus passengers would have been trapped and shot like fish in a barrel.

One bus driver complained to KNTV “Who is going to protect the bus drivers?” Many bus drivers carry concealed weapons against policy. RTC and Metro cannot put armed guards or police officers on every bus. Why not empower drivers and passengers to defend themselves? Unfortunately, no one with the ability to affect widespread change will take any such steps. It would not be surprising at all to see the Democrat controlled legislature try to prohibit firearms on public buses. This is not a solution, but instead an expansion of victim disarmament zones.

Nevada law does not prohibit guns in casinos or tourist areas, either openly or concealed. All private property owners can do is trespass a citizen who refuses to disarm or leave. Essentially every casino and major tourist property prohibits firearms, requiring them to be checked with security. Open carriers find themselves bearing the brunt of this ban for obvious reasons. Concealed carriers and off-duty/retired cops are almost never detected or bothered. Most security officers practice a “see no evil” policy creating an environment where concealed carry is de facto permitted in casinos.

What police brass, politicians, and many gaming executives fail to understand is the only thing that will stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. The Westgate Las Vegas Resort, formerly the Las Vegas Hilton, will be purchasing and evaluating a microwave radar system that will scan guests for concealed firearms. The device, which looks like a small electronic box, can be mounted above entry doors and can see through clothing and people to identify those who are carrying a gun. The system is far more efficient than a metal detection system as it can scan entire crowds without creating a choke point as conventional security checkpoints do.

The Westgate is mum about how they will employ it. It’s hard to see them stopping every guest carrying a concealed pistol, especially if that person plans to lock it up in their room. Security officers intercepting a guest with such intentions would surely be alienating to customers. Unless casinos adopt a monolithic draconian anti-gun policy, individual casinos like the Westgate will likely face severe backlash from the gun community if gun owners who simply don’t want to become victims of Strip violence are accosted and disarmed by casino security.

What’s most likely is that the technology would be installed in specific area, such as the entrance to nightclubs and concert venues, where metal detectors and security are already present. These venues tend to attract certain people who, often aided by alcohol or drugs, are likely to engage in violence. This would create a less intrusive security screening checkpoint and move people in and out more efficiently.

Gamblers, shoppers, restaurant diners, casual drinkers, and tourists strolling the Strip are not a security threat. A Big Brother type system scanning bodies for concealed firearms will do nothing except offend legal citizens who want to spend money or create so many false positives that the system is useless. It does nothing in public areas, such as sidewalks, where no one can prohibit carrying a firearm even openly. Simply knowing someone is armed does no one any benefit. Real security, including allowing citizens to have the tools to react against a threat, will not only deter violence but save lives as well.

Armed casino security is not a panacea. Casino security staff ranges from highly competent officers at near police quality to rent a cops who have their guns stolen. Many security officers take their firearms training seriously and are true assets to the gun community. Generally, when security falls to the hands of individual officers, they operate with discretion. No doubt that these quality officers would, if they were in a position to do so, try to end a mass shooting. Yet just like police, security cannot be everywhere and there is often no security on the Strip itself, on buses, or when going to/coming from a casino.

Citizens and tourists should never be disarmed because a board room succumbs to anti-gun hysteria, conflating everyone who carries a gun with gun violence. Too many businesses post “no guns” signs or setup security theater, such as metal detectors with staff merely going through the motions, for reasons they cannot explain. Perhaps it is a notion of liability that our litigious society encourages or simply a business superstition that signs are some sort of talisman warding off crime. Tourists aren’t scared by armed citizens; many assume that since this is the United States or the West, that it is as common as seeing celebrities in Malibu. At the worst, they see it as boorish and unnecessary.

As this weekend has shown us, despite the 99% of the time everything is copacetic, 1% of the time a gun will be needed in the hands of a good guy to save the day. Casinos need to remember that concealed carry (and open carry as well) is harmless. It is the criminal, terrorist, or psychopath that you cannot deter or detect that is the threat. Make people feel safe on the Strip by letting them take their own defense into their own hands. Let terrorists, criminals, and would-be murderers know that any shooting spree in Las Vegas will be a short one.

The mundane aspects of security focus on drunk patrons behaving badly or the criminally inclined adhering to their criminal nature. At the more common extreme, gang members, drug dealers, and pimps causing violence on the Strip, like the shooting/car crash of several years ago. This weekend’s events were certainly uncommon, but it has happened before and will happen again. Instead of focusing closely on prohibiting guns as a panacea to violence, police and casinos need to focus on multivariate threats such as the car attacks that have become common in Europe. The tourist packed sidewalks are a repeat of the Nice tragedy waiting to happen.

So all tourists and visitors to the Strip are reminded that it isn’t a safe place. It’s not terribly dangerous either, but there is no reason to go there unarmed. Furthermore, the gaming industry should be on notice that disarming customers does not make anyone safety, it just makes it easier for a killer to take lives.

1 comment:

  1. Agree with everything you stated 100 percent.