Over the Past 11 years, most peo- ple who carry pocket knives or corkscrews (apparently more people than you might think, do) have learned to leave them at home or put them in checked baggage before leaving for the airport. Those who haven’t learned either haven’t been paying attention or haven’t been flying.
And so it caught most people by surprise recently when Transportation Security Administration Administrator John Pistole announced that some of the restrictions put in place in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks were being relaxed.
Specifically new regulations would allow passengers to bring two golf clubs aboard planes, as well as folding knives with blades that are no more than 2.36 inches long and less than half an inch wide and most pocket corkscrews. The club rule would seem to appeal to travelers who can’t bear to put their two favorite clubs in the cargo bay, or who are traveling to a world class par 3 tournament. The knife rule seems to appeal only to those who can’t remember that they’re not allowed to bring knives on the plane. Note to anyone that absent-minded: You’re still not allowed to bring guns on board either, and if you forget to leave your pistol at home or in the car, you can get in serious trouble.
Pistole said the TSA was responding to “hundreds and hundreds” of passenger suggestions over the last two years. Really? Out of the hundreds of thousands of airline passengers who have had complaints about one form of TSA security or another, it’s the hundreds of knife-carriers that struck a chord?
Testifying before Congress, Pistole said these knives are “not the thing that terrorists are intending to use.” Terrorists, it should be remembered, used box cutters to take over four flights on 9/11, and box cutters will still be forbidden. If the position is that the TSA knows that terrorists are no longer inclined toward the methodology that box cutters facilitate — that is taking passengers or crew hostage as a method of gaining control of the airplane, then pen knives, box cutters and even larger knives should be allowed as well.
Pistole also said that allowing selected knives on board will free TSA screeners to watch for other more dangerous threats, such as explosives. This presumes that TSA screeners are incapable of multi-tasking, and that it is more efficient to screen legal knives from illegal knives rather than simply ban knives.
Virtually every traveler now knows what to bring on board and what to put in a checked bag or leave at home. Pistole has picked an unnecessary fight with pilots, flight attendants and even air marshals, all of whom have said there is no reason to change the no-knife rule.
The TSA should tell those “hundreds and hundreds” of travelers eager to carry their pocket knives, corkscrews, golf clubs, hockey sticks and souvenir baseball bats into the cabin that they’ve been outvoted by thousands of travel professionals — not to mention millions of travelers who have been able to adapt to flying without a Swiss Army knife within reach.