Michigan Capitol first to deploy AI gun detection

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Capital News Service 

LANSING — Michigan’s State Capitol is the first in the nation to deploy a gun detection system using artificial intelligence for security.

The new system, called ZeroEyes, detects threats through surveillance cameras indoors and outdoors. In theory, if AI detects a device that resembles a gun, an alert will be sent to human security watchers who can then sound the Capitol’s emergency alarm.

The executive director of the State Capitol Commission, Robert Blackshaw, said the system will reassure visitors.

He said the commission takes a safe environment seriously.

“We want a safe place for everyone to come visit,” Blackshaw said. “We want more people to come and visit this beautiful building.”

The system is expected to cost $3,000 a month, which will come out of the existing security fund.

“The last I heard that there was some potential issues regarding the use of the detection devices,” said Jerry Warnemuende, the Michigan Coalition For Responsible Gun Owners director for Southwest Michigan.

More questions were referred to the coalition’s media contact who couldn’t be reached.

After the commission voted unanimously to ban concealed carry weapons on Capitol grounds, it began searching for software surveillance programs in August. 

It chose ZeroEyes because of the human verification needed before an alert is sounded, Blackshaw said. The system went into operation in late November.

“There wasn’t one specific event that really triggered this — pardon my pun — but with everything going on, the political landscape is different than it was 10 years ago,” he said.

The commission also installed metal detectors.

“We added this (AI) piece to bring more awareness that there’s not one system that’s perfect. It just adds layers to the security and helps us make better decisions,” Blackshaw said.

“It decreases any risk of a mass shooting, it increases our security and it definitely provides a safer environment for the folks that work here, as well as the hundreds of thousands of folks who visit here on a yearly basis,” he said.

Blackshaw said there are disagreements about the new security measures.

“I think it’s a mixed bag. No matter what you implement, if it’s a change, there’s a little resistance,” he said. “I think people are accepting it — we’re just providing a safer environment.”

Blackshaw said there shouldn’t be much visible change to a visitor..

“All the layers of security that we’ve added will not take away from your visit or be an obstruction,” he said. “You can come visit with your families and feel just as safe here as anywhere else.”

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