TSA To Allow Small Knives on Airplanes, and I’m Glad

Beginning on April 25, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is doing something that you don’t often see; it is loosening restrictions on what you can bring through security. Shock! Horror! What is now being permitted, small knives among other things, has caused an uproar in some groups. Personally, I like this kind of move. We need more changes like this one.

TSA Thinks It Isn't a Knife

Unfortunately, the new rules will not allow you to bring liquids over 3 oz on to an airplane. That horrendous rule continues to inflict pain on all travelers, all in the supposed name of security. (That being said, the European Union (EU) is again making rumblings about changing that.) Instead, this rule will now allow the following to pass through security:

  • Small knives with non-locking blades smaller than 2.36 inches and less than 1/2 inch in width
  • Small novelty bats and toy bats
  • Ski poles
  • Hockey sticks
  • Lacrosse sticks
  • Billiard cues
  • Golf clubs (limit two)

I think we can all agree that the allowance of billiard cues through security is the really important change here. I mean, how many times have you arrived at the airport with your billiard cue, only to remember that you can’t bring it through? That’s the worst.

No, of course the knife is the big thing here. So does this mean that terrorists can come on with knives and crash airplanes? Well, in theory, I suppose. But let’s be realistic here. The knives that we’re talking about have to be non-locking and have blades that are pretty tiny. This will effectively allow people to bring their Swiss Army knives on the airplane. Considering how useful those are and how many people carry them, this should make life easier for a lot of people. I can’t even imagine how many have been thrown away at checkpoints in the last decade.

But couldn’t a terrorist bring that knife on? Sure. But if someone is a terrorist and he’s relying on a Swiss Army knife to commandeer an airplane, I’m going to guess he’s not the best terrorist around. That can hurt someone, but it’s not hard to subdue someone with just a tiny knife. We’re only talking about a 2.36 inch blade here. And there are plenty of other objects that can be brought onboard today that can do worse damage. (Last time I checked, letter openers weren’t banned.)

Brief sidebar here – why the heck is the limit 2.36 inches? That’s the same as 6 centimeters and it now aligns with the rules in the EU. Damn them and their metric system. Now back to the post.

The other rules seem largely inconsequential to me. Even if you can bring a hockey stick through, good luck getting that to fit in the bag sizer. Even if the TSA allows these things, that doesn’t mean the airline will. All this means is that the TSA is ceding that responsibility to the airline, because it’s not a security issue.

In the end, you have to weigh the potential threat of these objects with the pain inflicted upon all other travelers. In this case, it seems quite right to say that the pain saved by allowing these will outweigh the potential for harm. There has been a lot of disagreement on this, of course, and flight attendants have been leading the charge. (You can listen to some back and forth here.)

For me, however, this specific move isn’t a big deal. I don’t carry any of those things. But it tells me that the TSA is getting smarter about how it designs security, so there is at least a minor hope that they’ll work to fix the real pain-points. The day that I can bring a full bottle of water from home on to an airplane will be proof that the TSA is doing things right. Consider this an appetizer, I suppose.

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