Tim Cushing
techdirt.com
Janaury 30, 2013

The TSA worries too much. It should take a year or two (or forever…) off. Even though it doesn’t think the next wave of terrorist attacks will target airplanes and fliers, it still cracks down on anything that even slightly resembles a weapon (“guns” that belong to puppets, purses with bejeweled “brass knuckle” clasps).

The agency recently reminded people flying into Vegas to attend the annual Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade Show (SHOT Show) that they’ll need to be extra careful about what souvenirs they want to bring home with them.

McCarran and the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority issued a summary sheet of TSA rules — listing what can and can’t be taken in carry-on bags and checked luggage — to show representatives to pass along to attendees.

A basic rule of thumb: You can’t take a gun or anything that looks like one in a carry-on. That includes firearms, flare guns, pellet guns, BB guns, compressed air guns, starter pistols, gun parts, realistic replicas of firearms, ammunition, paintball markers, plastic explosives, hand grenades or realistic replicas of explosives…

There’s also a short list of things you can’t take in carry-ons or checked bags: flares, gun lighters or gunpowder, including black powder and percussion caps.

All of this is (somewhat) common knowledge. Weapons of any sort (even ones that don’t use bullets) are frowned upon by the TSA. Most gun owners know these rules and follow them. But this is what the TSA used as an example of the sort of thing it wouldn’t be happy to see making its way through security.

Yes, it’s a single bullet, encased in acrylic and attached to a keychain. This little fellow caused quite the delay in 2012 as the TSA confiscated dozens of these keychains in order to prevent terrorism from breaking out on flights leaving Las Vegas.

The operative theory (apparently) was that departing aircraft would be filled with bullets which, once freed from their acrylic prison, could be loaded into a gun or guns safely stowed away in the luggage compartments underneath the cabin of the plane. Or maybe the fear was that the bullets would be freed and the gunpowder used to create some sort of explosive.

To follow this logic, you have to assume that terrorists attended a gun show solely to pick up “non-suspicious” trinkets to assemble on board in order to hijack or sabotage the plane. This would also need the supporting assumption that several terrorists would have successfully made it past screening without being flagged by the TSA’s crack team of Behavioral Detection Officers or by the statistical perversity of random selection.

Or, more likely, there’s no logic. The rules say “no gunpowder” and bullets encased in acrylic likely contain gunpowder, therefore keychains attached to single bullets encased in acrylic are “no go.” There’s no room for logic when you’ve got a list.

Does anyone feel safer knowing the TSA is on the lookout for items like these? Does anyone breathe a sigh of relief upon seeing the confiscation of these trinkets and say, “Thank god. I wouldn’t want a bullet in a block of acrylic on board with me?” No, more likely the reaction of those boarding flights with SHOT Show attendees felt just as annoyed by the needless delay. Maybe they rolled their eyes and thought, “Of course they’d confiscate that. It’s in the gun ‘family.'” Maybe a few blamed the gun show attendees for the delay but I seriously doubt a single person thought any of the TSA agents were “earning their paycheck,” or successfully combating terrorism, by confiscating these souvenirs.