Story URL: http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/news.aspx?id=222851
Story Retrieval Date: 12/19/2014 2:57:29 PM CST

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Sarah Kaufman/MEDILL

Although the TSA has a ban on small knives on passenger planes, travelers are still able to bring screwdrivers on-board.


Flyers split on TSA decision to keep ban on small knives

by Sarah Devin Kaufman
Jun 6, 2013


Chicago flyers were split in their views on the decision by the Transportation Security Administration to drop plans to allow small knives in carry-on luggage on planes.

The agency announced Wednesday that it would keep small knives, along with novelty-sized bats, golf clubs and other sports equipment, on its list of prohibited items.

Chicago activist Mauro Lara said the ban is mostly psychological, to make travelers feel safer.

“Since 9/11, security measures taken at airports have been too reactionary,” he said. “In general, passengers are more cognizant of their safety on planes, so banning small weapons wouldn’t make a difference.”

A frequent traveler, who wished to remain anonymous because she is applying for access to express security entry at airports, said there is no point in banning small knives when other small, potentially dangerous objects are allowed.

Last week she got by security with a screwdriver in her purse, she said. The TSA now also permits small scissors, cigarette lighters and matches.

“Why ban knives when they’re allowing things like screwdrivers?” she said.

But one Chicago resident said it’s better to be safe than sorry. “The human race isn’t ready to have access to small knives in the air,” said Erin Bailey, who travels often from O’Hare.

Some flight attendants are also in support of the ban. In the event that a passenger pulls out a small knife on-board, flight attendants will likely be the first ones hurt, The Association of Flight Attendants said in a statement.

"We don't have a way to protect ourselves," said Angie Summers, a flight attendant for a commercial airline.

The TSA made the decision “after extensive engagement with the Aviation Security Advisory Committee, law enforcement officials, passenger advocates, and other important stakeholders,” the agency said in an email.

The agency first discussed the idea to allow small knives and sporting equipment on-board in March, saying the plan would give security officers more time to focus on detecting bombs and other more dangerous objects.

The TSA confiscates more than 2,000 small knives a day from passengers, which TSA administrator John Pistole said takes attention away from other weapons.

An advantage of getting rid of the proposal is that the TSA can devote more time to identifying the greatest security threats, Pistole said.

“After getting the input from all these different constituents, I realized there was not across-the-board support that would serve us well in moving forward,” he told the Associated Press.