Poisoned jawbreakers: the next terrorist attack?

Town aldermen in Dover, N.J., worried that terrorists could attack the town’s children by poisoning gumballs in coin-operated gumball machines, have launched an inspection of every machine they can find.

Aldermen Frank Poolas, Jack Delaney and Michael Picciallo, six months into a planned nine-month investigation, so far have found 100 unlicensed machines filled with gumballs, jawbreakers and other candies commonly enjoyed by children with a few coins in their pockets. They say that the issue is a “high priority” and plan to report their findings to the mayor by Jan. 1.

But the police chief says there’s nothing to worry about and that terrorists aren’t targeting gumball machines. “The gumballs are safe,” says Harold “Butch” Valentine.

The odds are remote that candy machines would be targeted by terrorists, he added. “You’d probably win the lottery first,” Valentine said.

Thomas Zellman, director of the Morris County Department of Law and Public Safety, agreed that gumball machines are “certainly not” a threat to homeland security. . . .

William Shuler Jr., a Republican running for a seat on the board of aldermen, thought gumballs are a problem, but only after they’ve been chewed.

“If I had it my way,” Shuler said, “I would probably remove all gumball machines and get the gum off the sidewalks and make less work for sidewalk sweepers.” — Newark Star-Ledger

But the aldermen are convinced they have to register every gumball machine in town, and set up a candy tracking system, “for the children.” Meanwhile, poor children live in overcrowded housing projects, families are losing the homes they’ve lived in for generations for “redevelopment,” and parents have now been given something else to worry about.

It seems to me that creating fear where there was no need or justification for it is a common tactic used by petty tyrants to increase their control over ordinary people’s lives.

Security expert Bruce Schneier calls the idea “too stupid for words.” Gumball registration isn’t going to make anybody safer, but it will make gumballs more expensive and it will grow government into yet another aspect of our children’s lives where it doesn’t belong.