The New York Police Department this week unveiled new radiation scanners capable of identifying concealed weapons from a distance. As the New York Daily News reports, the scanners are small enough to be installed in police vans or on notoriously violent street corners, thereby allowing police to identify carriers of illegal guns without going through the traditional pat-down procedure.

Developed in conjunction with the London Metropolitan Police, the devices are designed to pick up on the terahertz radiation naturally emitted by both humans and inanimate objects. Anything blocking that radiation — including a gun — will be prominently highlighted, as evidenced by the NYPD's demonstration, embedded below.

"We're talking to our legal staff about this."

Wednesday's announcement comes amid heightened debate over gun control, both on the national and state level. Earlier this month, the New York state legislature approved strict new measures that make it more difficult for people to purchase high capacity gun magazines. The laws also call for tighter, real-time background checks that will allow authorities to quickly identify high-volume buyers.

Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly says the NYPD has already begun testing its new scanners, which were first announced last year, and that it hopes to deploy them in the near future. Civil rights groups have raised concerns over the legality of so-called "virtual pat-downs," though Raymond insists that the NYPD will take every precaution to use them responsibly.

"We still have a number of trials to run before we can determine how best to deploy this technology," Kelly said. "We’re also talking to our legal staff about this. But we’re very pleased with the progress we’ve made over the past year."

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