It's sadly ironic that the events of 9/11 inspired the Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act (LEOSA), but the National September 11 Memorial & Museum in New York City prohibits armed active duty and retired officers from entering. Although par for New York City's anti-gun course, it is nonetheless disheartening that the museum denies access to LEOSA qualified officers. Even worse, there are no weapon lockers for armed law enforcement officers to secure their firearms on the property. I'm so glad the 9/11 Museum has its priorities straight.
Prior to the Museum's official opening, 9/11 first responders were invited to a special preview. My former partner and I decided to attend. When we entered the screening area, we were abruptly told by private security that we were not allowed in with our firearms.
Not wanting to shoot the messenger, my partner asked security if there was a place where we could secure our weapons. The security guard ignored the question and repeated his initial statement of, "You're not allowed in with your guns." Realizing this was going to end poorly with one injured security guard, I saw a uniformed Port Authority Police Officer nearby and approached him and explained our predicament. The officer was a gentleman and immediately apologized for the guard's rudeness and the policy. He also thanked us for stepping up during the terrorist attacks. This level of professionalism is typical of Port Authority officers who are squared away and solid.
Unfortunately, the PAPD doesn't have jurisdiction within the 9/11 Museum. We also learned that the "elite" 9/11 Museum security team, as a general practice, was uncooperative with the PAPD. Not wanting us to miss the preview experience, the officer offered to assist us with securing our firearms off-site. We appreciated the courtesy, and we ultimately locked up our firearms and walked back to the museum.
While we weren't looking for anyone to kiss our proverbial rings, we did expect museum staff to be hospitable and allow us to remain armed. As we walked through the museum, my partner and I had the same thought, which was, the 9/11 Museum staff couldn't repel a butterfly much less an active shooter.
Setting aside the staff's rudeness, I'm left wondering why active and retired law enforcement officers are prohibited from carrying in the 9/11 Museum. I could envision an officer coming to New York with his or her family, and wanting to visit the museum. Imagine how dispiriting it is to arrive at the Museum as an armed sworn officer and be told you can't enter.
A total of 72 law enforcement officers made the ultimate sacrifice on 9/11, and numerous others continue to succumb to sustained lethal toxin exposure. Yet somehow, the 9/11 Museum administrators concluded that the way to honor law enforcement is by prohibiting their armed entry.
It's amazing that if 9/11 Museum staff needed to call 911, they would expect armed officers to come to their rescue. Nonetheless, the museum principals remain paralyzed with fear over their nightmare scenario of the Big Bad LEOSA Wolf penetrating the sanctity of their museum. Perhaps a little Google therapy might help to mitigate their fear by revealing an absence of LEOSA horror stories. To the contrary, we read about inspiring stories where LEOSA-qualified retired officers step up to save lives. At the Las Vegas massacre both retired and off-duty officers engaged heroically.
Unfortunately, the 9/11 Museum isn't the only public facility that prohibits armed entry for officers. This "bury your head in the sand" defense only increases the chances of burying innocent bodies deep into the earth. There are practical options for employing a means to identify an armed museum visitor, such as the color of the day systems. In terms of both judgment and skill, I trust the response readiness of an off-duty or retired officer 24/7. If and when the badness were to invade the 9/11 Museum, the staff's manufactured rudeness would be ineffective in stopping it.
I haven't been in the 9/11 Museum since that disheartening first responder preview, so my staff assessment pertains to those who were employed there at the time. Nonetheless, it's not a staff issue, but an executive strategic failure. The terrorists and active shooters will never outnumber us, but all it takes is one of them to wreak havoc in an unarmed victim zone. Why shift the combat odds to the bad guys, while banishing America's finest from a public building?