Changes in airlines policy becomes a pointed topic

An announcement by the Transportation Security Administration this week has become a pointed topic. Airline passengers will be permitted to carry small knives, golf clubs, hockey sticks and related items onto planes beginning next month.

The policy change conforms U.S. security standards to international standards, and allows TSA to concentrate its energies on more serious safety threats, the agency said in a statement. That policy change is being passionately debated.

The new policy permits folding knives with blades that are 2.36 inches (6 centimeters) or less in length and are less than 1/2-inch wide. The policy is aimed at allowing passengers to carry pen knives, corkscrews with small blades and other knives. These kinds of items were banned following the Sept. 11 tragedies.

Passengers also will be allowed to bring onboard as part of their carry-on luggage novelty-sized baseball bats less than 24 inches long, toy plastic bats, billiard cues, ski poles, hockey sticks, lacrosse sticks and two golf clubs, the agency said. The policy goes into effect on April 25.

Security standards adopted by the International Civil Aviation Organization, a U.N. agency, already call for passengers to be able to carry those items. Those standards are non-binding, but many countries follow them.

Box cutters, razor blades and knives that don’t fold or that have molded grip handles will still be prohibited, the TSA said.

Sharp criticism was immediately unleashed. Unions representing over 100,000 flight attendants are calling the new policies “dangerous.”

We agree. Granted a heel of a shoe, a money clip, a simple ink pen or a comb can become a weapon in the hands of someone bent on inflicting harm on a flight. But a pen knife? Grab a ruler and measure out just under 2 and a half inches. Right – a blade that long could cause harm in the hands of a nut bent on terrorism at 30,000 feet. What if a half dozen would-be terrorists purposely boarding the same flight were each carrying such a soon-to-be allowable knife? Think they collectively could cause harm? Think they could take over a passenger jet cabin? Now, as absurd as it might sound, toss in a few hockey sticks. Or even pool cues. Think back to 9-11-01. Before that dreadful morning who would have thought that plain, ordinary box cutters would play such a key role in one of the most tragic days in our nation’s history? Pen knives are seemingly just as plain and ordinary. And just as potentially dangerous as a box cutter. Keep in mind too, that not all flights have federal air marshals or armed pilots onboard. Ask those family members directly devastated by 9-11-01 how they feel about a loosening of policy.

Our country will never completely heal from the terrorism of Sept. 11. We have done a great job of preventing subsequent disasters. We should steadfastly maintain that security approach and promptly ground the new policy before it evens takes off.