Few people who were alive on Sept. 11, 2001, need to be reminded of the dangers that small knives can pose to air travel. So the Transportation Security Administration’s recent decision to begin allowing non-locking knives less than 6 centimeters long to be carried onto planes was truly stupefying: Hopefully, as the outcry grows, the TSA will quickly reverse itself.
The terrorist acts that brought down four planes, destroying the World Trade Center and damaging the Pentagon, were committed by assailants who slit the throats of pilots with knives and box cutters. So the TSA, which took over airport security after the attacks, focused on keeping knives and knife-like cutters off of planes. It was a reasonable move, and there have been no further problems with knives. Now, the TSA seems to feel the threat has passed: Its blog said the agency was relaxing its rules in order to better focus its efforts “on finding higher threat items such as explosives.” Various sporting goods, such as souvenir bats, ski poles, and golf clubs will soon be allowed on board, as well.
Agency spokesmen said that flights are now safer with armed air marshals, locked cockpit doors, and crew members trained in self defense. That sounds reasonable enough, except that pilots, flight attendants, and federal air marshals are all insisting that knives continue to be banned; they are the people best positioned to understand the dangers.
The change is set to go into effect at the end of April, which means the TSA has seven weeks to change its mind. It should. Many Americans have shaken their heads at the X-ray machine after forgetting to take their Swiss Army knives out of their bags after camping trips. But for the most part, passengers have accepted the small material loss. Sept. 11 tragically demonstrated how 3,000 lives could be lost, beginning with a few men wielding small blades.