These should not be considered dangerous weapons


In Shelby County, Tennessee, a number of governmental office buildings have security check points screening members of the public before they continue to the office areas.

The guards say they are told not to allow cameras, voice recorders, or radio transceivers (i.e. walkie-talkies) past the check point. Persons attempting to conduct business with their county government carrying such items are usually prohibited from carrying those items with tem.

As an example, County Commission meetings are, by law, open for public attendance and news media are allowed to enter with cameras and audio recorders, there are records in which a member of the public was stopped and not allowed to enter until county administrator’s and the sheriff’s office were contacted and recognized the validity of the citizen’s appeal. The same holds true for an amateur radio transceiver. Amateur radio operators, often called “hams,” are licensed by the Federal Communications Commission and many participate in public safety programs, like the National Weather Service’s Storm Spotter network. To effectively participate in those programs, the radio operations need to have their radios with them.

Police officers at Memphis city hall have similar instructions as the guards in county buildings.

The Federal Protective Service manning checkpoints in federal buildings is the same.

But all of them allow cellular phones to be carried into the buildings.

From a logical point of view, it makes little sense to prohibit these items. Cell phones take pictures, record audio and they are radio transceivers. They are allowed in these restricted areas without question. If the fear is that something else is being carried in the disguise of one of these items, that would hold true for any number of personal property items, including cell phones.

If those working in government fear their picture being taken or their words being recorded, then that should greatly alarm the public. Holding our government accountable is a fundamental obligation of the people and any effort to avoid accountability by governmental officials is to be rejected by the people.

Admittedly, there are a few places it might be appropriate to restrict video/audio recording devices or 2-way radios, places like the jails, correction centers, and near the offices of undercover police officers. Although it is a terribly archaic rule, many courtrooms locally prohibit recording devices in possession of the public, except of course they ignore the cell phone. Since judges prohibit these items, screening for them on the floors of buildings where courtrooms are located makes sense, at least as much sense as the prohibition does (which is not much).

Put directly, this observer of government seriously questions whether cameras, audio recorders, amateur radio transceivers should not be considered dangerous weapons restricted from governmental office buildings. Can their use be abused? Probably so, as can just about anything else a person carries into a government building.

Should members of the public be able to photograph their governmental employees at work; to record what they say in their offices? Is our government so afraid of being held accountable that it uses police force to prevent it?

Are licensed amateur radio operators, often lauded for their help in major emergencies and for helping in routine public events a threat if they have their radios with them in public buildings.

Is a public building really public, other than the public having paid for it and the salaries of those that work there, if the police force is used to prohibit these recording and communication devices from being carried into them?