Because yesterday’s horrific Ariana Grande concert bombing took place at a sports arena, and because I’ve written about sports arena security, I feel like I should have something to say about it, beyond the obvious fact that it’s horrific. With the sketchy details available so far, here’s what I can think of:
- The explosion went off in the arena lobby, so the obvious question is how the bomber got the explosives in past security. (Assuming the lobby was inside the arena gates, which isn’t entirely clear from this diagram.) The bomb is described as an “improvised explosive device,” which could be made entirely (or almost entirely) from plastic explosives, and thus be difficult to scan for with metal detectors.
- The mother of a 19-year-old who was at the concert (and uninjured) said that “although her son had water taken off him, his bags were not searched and security did not check what he was carrying,” something that was echoed by other attendees. That’s dumb security, obviously, but exactly the kind of “security theater” that stadiums and arenas engage in when faced with the dilemma of how to get tens of thousands of fans to their seats while also doing some minimal security search, which means minimal is exactly what you get.
- This is almost certainly going to lead to increased security measures like more stringent bag checks and more walkthrough metal detectors, neither of which I’m all that confident will do much to prevent future bombings, especially since not only can IEDs be strapped to someone’s body rather than carried in a bag, but a bomber could have done about the same amount of damage standing just outside the arena lobby instead of just inside it.
- The most effective way to prevent attacks on innocent concertgoers is to get fewer people in the world thinking that that’s an effective way to get their point across. That’s hard.
And that’s all I’ve got. I’d love to be able to blame this on someone (other than the bomber), or suggest an easy fix, but I’m not too hopeful on either count. In the meantime, my sympathies to the families of those killed and injured. What a damn world.