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TSA Has Lost Its Collective Mind

If you’re one of those people who is irritated by airport security theater — that is, if you’re a person who ever flies — this story is going to make your blood boil. TSA prevented a 17 year old girl from getting on a plane because the western style purse she was carrying had a gun as part of the design.

Gibbs said she had no problem going through security at Jacksonville International Airport, but rather, when she headed home from Virginia.

“It’s my style, it’s camouflage, it has an old western gun on it,” Gibbs said.

But her preference for the pistol style didn’t sit well with TSA agents at the Norfolk airport.

Gibbs said she was headed back home to Jacksonville from a holiday trip when an agent flagged her purse as a security risk.

“She was like, ‘This is a federal offense because it’s in the shape of a gun,’” Gibbs said. “I’m like, ‘But it’s a design on a purse. How is it a federal offense?’”

After agents figured out the gun was a fake, Gibbs said, TSA told her to check the bag or turn it over.

By the time security wrapped up the inspection, the pregnant teen missed her flight, and Southwest Airlines sent her to Orlando instead, worrying her mother, who was already waiting for her to arrive at JIA.

TSA isn’t budging on the handbag, arguing the phony gun could be considered a “replica weapon.” The TSA says “replica weapons have prohibited since 2002.”

It’s a rule that Vanessa feels can’t be applied to a purse.

“Common sense,” she said. “It’s a purse, not a weapon.”

Is there not a single thinking person at TSA?

Comments

  1. anandine says

    Is there not a single thinking person at TSA?

    Probably, but apparently not in a position of authority.

  2. daveau says

    “Is there not a single thinking person at TSA?”

    Yes. They are thinking: CYA. I feel sooo much safer now.

  3. Sastra says

    At this point it’s probably no longer about the rule’s purpose: it’s about following the rule, and people following the rule, and people following the rule that says you have to make people follow the rule. There’s perhaps an underlying assumption that an overlying attitude and atmosphere of obedience is going to somehow lead to less terrorism — or at least make better citizens.

  4. eric says

    Its worth looking at the picture in the story if you haven’t done so. Truly astounding that they would claim an embroidered design counts as a replica, even if its metal.

    All of the sophisticated detection equipment in the world doesn’t fix stupid.

  5. Reginald Selkirk says

    TSA isn’t budging on the handbag, arguing the phony gun could be considered a “replica weapon.”

    Idiots. A “replica weapon” would be something designed to appear just like a gun, but unable to fire. Perhaps you might want to mount it over your fireplace or something. An embossed leather design on a handbag is not a “replica weapon.”

  6. lordshipmayhem says

    Dear TSA: Plese tell me how you are supposed to shoot a purse.

    Did none of these nitwits ever take a handgun course? I mean, and pass the damned thing.

  7. eric says

    Is there not a single thinking person at TSA?

    To give TSA a bit of credit, the woman said she’s flown regularly with the purse before and never been stopped. Even on the same legs she did this trip. So evidently every other time she got a thinking TSA person.

  8. Doug Little says

    Shit what are they gonna do if you have a tattoo of a knife or gun on you, I guess you can’t fly anymore.

    Fucking idiots.

  9. Abby Normal says

    I’m more appalled at this young woman’s sense of style. That has got to be one of the most hideous accessories I’ve ever seen. What shoes would one even wear with that?

    Oh, I see.

  10. Captain Mike says

    It’s not just TSA. A woman was prevented from boarding a flight in Kelowna, British Columbia, because she was wearing a pendant in the shape of a Colt .45, and a guy in the U.K. wasn’t allowed to board his plane until he changed his t-shirt, because the shirt he was wearing depicted Optimus Prime holding a gun.

  11. Stevarious says

    TSA really has jumped the shark with this one. They were always a parody of actual airline safety – but now it’s like an SNL sketch that’s gone on for 9 years.
    We get the joke, assholes! We get it! Now let us on the plane!

  12. says

    I’m willing to give the TSA folks some slack, because they’re not the ones who write the stupid rules they have to enforce; but this is just fucking ridiculous. It’s obviously a PICTURE of a gun, not a “replica weapon” (like a very realistic toy) that could be credibly used to threaten anyone.

    Airport security is getting a bit like censorship: it’s starting to attract the dumbest, least imaginitive, and most humorless elements, so a policy that may have made a little sense on paper becomes totally asinine as applied. (And no, bigjohn, you can’t compare them to ordinary bureaucrats, unless you’re the kind of bigot who’s also likely to think all black people are the same.)

  13. lofgren says

    Its worth looking at the picture in the story if you haven’t done so. Truly astounding that they would claim an embroidered design counts as a replica, even if its metal.

    Yeah, at first I was like, “Well even something that is obviously fake up close might look real from a distance so maybe…” Then I took a look at it. That is not a gun.

    Someday in the not too distant future somebody is going to get on a plane with a Fantastic Four t-shirt and leave the plane in cuffs for threatening to set it on fire with the Human Torch.

  14. says

    Sastra: the underlying assumption is that if anything bad actually happened, anyone along the line who was not seen observing all rules to the letter, would be the one blamed for any casualties that result.

    Of course, that justifies getting pissy about toy guns that look real; but it doesn’t justify freaking out about a stupid-looking purse that is clearly not a gun.

  15. alanb says

    There’s perhaps an underlying assumption that an overlying attitude and atmosphere of obedience is going to somehow lead to less terrorism

    I think that the underlying assumption here is that the administrators at TSA don’t trust TSA screeners to exercise common sense. They think that no-exceptions, zero-tolerance rules are the only way to keep them from fucking up.

  16. says

    …but now it’s like an SNL sketch that’s gone on for 9 years.

    Sounds like good material for another SNL sketch. Maybe something where Dan Akroyd and a black travel-companion get strip-searched after a couple of airheads breeze through with white powder leaking from their clothes, and the TSA boss recognizes him from SNL and thanks him for that educational video with all the useful rules.

    No, that doesn’t sound funny to me either — but neither do most of SNL’s material since 1980. So it should fit right in.

  17. Brownian says

    Wait until they find out about this replica.

    And they’d be right to be scared. Conveniently fits in most pockets, undetectable by X-rays and physical searches, and transforms into a mostly harmless accessory that’s nigh ubiquitous among travellers.

    Still, I suspect it wouldn’t bother most security agents—unless it also comes in black.

  18. Azkyroth says

    At this point it’s probably no longer about the rule’s purpose

    …what makes you think it ever was?

  19. lofgren says

    Wait until they find out about this replica.

    I’ll bet a black six-year-old with this one in his bag would get himself strip searched and beaten.

  20. interrobang says

    I recently went on a business trip to Jerusalem, and on the way back, had to connect through Philadelphia in order to get back to Toronto. Despite only connecting through PHL (no stop on the way), not ever having left (as far as I’m aware, anyway) any secured areas in the airport, I had more trouble getting through security in Philly than I did either arriving in or leaving Tel Aviv. When your security is more intrusive and more of a PITA than Israeli security, you have a problem…

  21. eric says

    They think that no-exceptions, zero-tolerance rules are the only way to keep them from fucking up.

    But as this example shows, it doesn’t. Trading expert judgement in for no-exception rules doesn’t stop screw-ups, it just replaces a mix of false positives and negatives with a much higher number of false positives.

    In private sector cases, you start to see an obsession with rules when litigation is an issue. Rules are an anti-litigation strategy. However, barring some blatantly illegal strip search the chance of anyone successfully suing DHS over airline security is zero. So preventing litigation can’t really be a motive here.

  22. says

    interrobang: did you have to reclaim your bags and check in all over again in Philly? If so, then technically at least, you did indeed leave the “secured area” so you would have had to go through another security hassle to fly from there to Toronto.

    (However, I’m not sure why you’d have had to do that, since Toronto is a pretty big city, and its airport would most likely be an international airport. Was your final destination a non-international airport?)

  23. Doubting Thomas says

    You give small minded people that kind of power and they are going to abuse it, just because they can. It’s their way to make up for how weak and powerless they feel in real life. Happens all the time.

  24. D. C. Sessions says

    Is there not a single thinking person at TSA?

    Of course there are. Now would you like to ask what they’re thinking about?

  25. Tony Sidaway says

    I don’t see the problem here. If she has a replica gun and wants to travel with it, she can check it in and collect it at the destination. She can carry her money and stuff in another bag. This doesn’t sound like the kind of arbitrary case I’d find annoying, to be honest. Perhaps TSA should make their interpretations of the rules against replica firearms more widely known, and perhaps you shouldn’t have a TSA at all, but those are different arguments.

  26. yoav says

    I remember a couple of years ago when the returdlicans blocked the Obama nominee for head of the TSA citing the terrible fear that he may allow the TSA screeners to unionize as their reason. If you want employees who exercise judgement you need to give them a feeling that they have some level of protection otherwise the prudent way is to follow all regulations to the letter no matter how stupid just to have your ass all covered. Despite of what morons who quote Ayn Rand will want you to think you can’t have employees that are both show initiative and lack any rights.

  27. Hercules Grytpype-Thynne says

    TSA Has Lost Its Collective Mind

    I think Dan Quayle summed it up best: “What a waste it is to lose one’s mind. Or not to have a mind is being very wasteful. How true that is.”

    “Common sense,” she said. “It’s a purse, not a weapon.”

    Certainly a purse can be used as a weapon. I’m surprised she wasn’t tempted to hit the TSA person over the head with hers.

  28. bybelknap says

    Tony, you ignorant slut, did you even look at the picture of the “replica weapon?” (sorry for the SNL reference, I don’t really think you are an ignorant slut. I just think you missed the picture and how obviously not gun-like the thing is)

  29. Larry says

    What’s worse is that this idiocy must have passed at least two layers of the TSA bozos: the idiot who made the initial call and the idiot’s idiot supervisor. And since TSA isn’t budging on the call, I can only presume there are idiots all the way to the top.

    It is exactly shit like this that makes everyone ridicule TSA and their employees and scoff at the whole process as being nothing more than a joke.

  30. matty1 says

    did you have to reclaim your bags and check in all over again in Philly? If so, then technically at least, you did indeed leave the “secured area” so you would have had to go through another security hassle to fly from there to Toronto.

    There may have been no choice in that, I’ve been told that *all* passengers entering the US have to collect their bags and go through security even if they’re transiting between two other countries. A lot of European travel agents will advise you to avoid changing planes in America because of the delays this can cause.

  31. cayborduin says

    Finally, I understand why the pre-TSA didn’t let my 5 year old bring his plastic lightsabre on the return flight from DisneyLand in 2002. It was a replica weapon!

  32. DaveL says

    I think that the underlying assumption here is that the administrators at TSA don’t trust TSA screeners to exercise common sense. They think that no-exceptions, zero-tolerance rules are the only way to keep them from fucking up.

    Except we’ve seen that in other ways they give agents broad discretion based on a set of unbelievably vague behavioural criteria.

  33. Midnight Rambler says

    Sounds like good material for another SNL sketch. Maybe something where Dan Akroyd and a black travel-companion get strip-searched after a couple of airheads breeze through with white powder leaking from their clothes, and the TSA boss recognizes him from SNL and thanks him for that educational video with all the useful rules.

    While it would be “funny”, it wouldn’t really. I often carry a six-inch folding saw in my backpack for work, and have accidentally carried it through airport security at least 4 times without it being noticed. The last time it was in a bag where they did notice a jar half-full of peanut butter that I’d also forgotten about, and made me remove that. Doesn’t exactly give me confidence.

  34. cgauthier says

    “The Lighter Side of Global Terrorism” by Jello Biafra w/ the Melvins comes immediately to mind.

  35. tbp1 says

    My wife can always get on a plane with her knitting needles. Since she uses the circular kind, besides the stabbing capability, she could garrote someone with them.

    On the other hand, when I came back from a trip to Europe a couple of months ago I had to check the bag I had been using as carry-on because I had a tin of foie gras and another of rillettes I had bought at the duty free store at Charles de Gaulle Airport. I had a receipt for them, date- and time-stamped some 10 hours before my arrival in the US, but they counted as a “cream, gel or liquid” and were over the 3.4 oz limit. I will say that the TSA guy was polite, helped me to the right place to get the bag checked to my final destination, and he had the decency to seem a little chagrined, but still…

    I’m having a bit of hard time figuring out why something that could actually easily be used as a weapon is OK to take on a plane, but cans of goose products are not.

  36. Stevarious says

    I often carry a six-inch folding saw in my backpack for work, and have accidentally carried it through airport security at least 4 times without it being noticed. The last time it was in a bag where they did notice a jar half-full of peanut butter that I’d also forgotten about, and made me remove that. Doesn’t exactly give me confidence.

    I went through with my backpack back in 2003, and at the time I was completely ignorant of the rules. They confiscated a chisel, my water bottle, a pair of scissors, and gave me a hard time about a screwdriver. They didn’t even notice the small container of razor blades or the pocketknife, even though all of these things were in the same pocket. All this despite the fact that I was already on a list somewhere (for reasons I am not aware of) and I get the full search every time I fly.

    Reassured, I was not.

    But I guess ‘reassurance’ is not the point – the point is for me to be frightened and compliant.

  37. Tony Sidaway says

    Amanda Marcotte has posted a picture of the purse. It obviously isn’t a replica firearm. I withdraw my earlier comment.

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