Editorial: TSA smart to keep carry-on limits

Published 9:55 am Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The right people and interest groups spoke up — and fortunately for traveler safety, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) listened.

Last week TSA officials wisely backed off a proposal to let passengers once again carry small knives, souvenir bats, golf clubs and other sports equipment onto planes. It was a bad idea from the start, but federal officials heard the objections and reversed the recommendation they announced in March to loosen carry-on rules.

TSA Administrator John Pistole argued then that security measures taken since 9/11, such as locked cockpits, ensure that no one with a small knife can take down a plane. He said the time spent confiscating things like penknives could be better used searching for explosives and other more serious threats.

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But the pushback was loud, clear and justified. Aviation groups, airlines, labor unions, some law enforcement groups and editorial pages (including this one) complained about the plan. And last month, 145 House members signed a letter asking Pistole to keep the current ban in place.

The proposed change would have allowed folding knives with blades that are 2.36 inches or less in length and less than half an inch wide. Passengers also would have been able to carry on novelty-sized baseball bats shorter than 24 inches, toy plastic bats, billiard cues, ski poles, hockey sticks, lacrosse sticks and two golf clubs.

The threat of terrorism was not the only consideration. As airlines workers and others pointed out, the banned objects pose a threat to travelers and flight attendants. There have been too many stories about angry or intoxicated passengers disrupting flights. Arming them made no sense.

Pistole has said the TSA wants to turn its attention to other security issues, including expanding its Pre-Check program to pre-identify passengers who aren’t a security risk. That’s a worthwhile effort. Clearing more travelers ahead of time also would help speed up security checks and make flying less of a hassle.

In praising the TSA reversal, Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said in a statement, “This decision will allow TSA agents to focus on more important things than measuring the length of knives and sorting the ‘good’ knives from the ‘bad.’”

We hope concerns raised during this three-month discussion will cement in the minds of all travelers that safety is more important than convenience. TSA screeners confiscate more than 2,000 small knives every day at the nation’s airports.

Advice for travelers: Leave the knives and corkscrews at home, and let baggage handlers take care of your golf clubs and hockey sticks. Those minor irritants are small sacrifices in exchange for a safe flight.

— Minneapolis Star Tribune, June 9