The TSA is utterly hopeless at detecting anything in your carry-on but your forgotten bottles of water. Last year, it achieved a 95% failure rate on finding weapons during regular screening, which were snuck through "security" by federal agents posing as regular travelers.
But 95% isn’t nothing, and the TSA does find weapons, real and replica ones, in people’s carry-on bags. Over at the TSA blog, the agency posts photos of what it finds. Let’s take a look at last week’s booty.
In the hall of shame you’ll find guns, obviously. What you might not expect is that of the 68 firearms found in hand-luggage, 61 were loaded, and 26 had a round in the chamber, ready to go. Even if these folks weren’t planning a hijack, you probably wouldn’t want to get into an argument about seat reclining or overhead bin space with them.
It gets worse. "Live smoke grenades and parachute flares were discovered in a checked bag at Detroit (DTW)," says the TSA, and "three inert/replica grenades" were pulled out of bags in Jacksonville, Phoenix, and Grand Rapids. In New York’s JFK, and in Dallas, travelers tried to take cane swords on board, and in Chicago they found a would-be-passenger wearing a throwing knife on a chain around their neck.
Of course, not every one of these offenders is an idiot or a terrorist. Sometimes you just plain forget. I have a friend who keeps a pepper spray in her clear plastic toiletries bag and usually forgets to take it out before getting on a plane. She’s never once been stopped for it. And in the U.S., lest our international readers forget, it is actually legal to take your gun and its ammunition onto a flight, as long as you check it and tell the airline what you’re doing. (In fact, some say that it’s worth packing a firearm for the extra scrutiny it receives, which prevents TSA agents from rifling through your bags and stealing the valuables).
Fortunately, there are more than just stern tellings-off for these folks. The TSA blog tells us that trying to carry a weapon onto a plane can get you arrested, and you can end up with a fine of up to $11,000.
Still, if you have a 95% chance of getting past screening with your weapon still in your bag, then there’s not much incentive to remember to remove it. And for the civilized passengers who don’t carry guns, just remember to be careful next time you recline your seat during drinks service. You never know whose drink you might be spilling.
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