The Transportation Security Administration(TSA) announced on Tuesday March 5 2013 that it was adjusting the list of prohibited items. Per the press statement found here, “Effective April 25, 2013 TSA will allow knives that do not lock, and have blades that are 2.36 inches or 6 centimeters or less in length and are less than 1/2 inch in width, novelty-sized and toy bats, billiard cues, ski poles, hockey sticks, lacrosse sticks and two golf clubs as part of their carry-on baggage.”
The reason for the adjustment was given as aligning policy with the International Civil Aviation Organization . It does, however, allow TSA agents to focus on threats greater than these small knives (used as tools).
Razor blades and box cutters (such as used in the 9/11 hijackings) remain prohibited, presumably because the deployed blade can function similarly to a locked blade knife.
The characteristics of the knives allowed make them ill suited for personal protection (either offensively or defensively). The change in policy is geared towards the tool knife styles, such as “Swiss Army knives”. The non locking blade requirement alone precludes a decent protective device, while the prohibition against a molded handle ensures the knife is not ergonomically suited to protection.
This, of course, is the intent of the adjustment.
The carry-on allowance for small novelty bats is interesting, as the form factor of a small bat is a frequently trained item by martial artists (the tanbo) and remains a very viable weapon. The weight restriction on these items may preclude materials or heft necessary for item durability in a fight, however, as 24 ounces is just a pound and a half, but a light hardwood would likely perform as intended.
Full size bats are still prohibited.
Long stick sporting goods:
Why anyone would carry on a hockey stick is beyond me, but long stick items are now apparently allowed. Perhaps the TSA thought these items would be too unwieldy in a passenger compartment, or they don’t see the items as a serious threat, but the staff is one of the most heavily trained martial weapons in the world. A trained staff fighter would be able to wield the weapon even in the confines of the fighting space were limited.
Mindset, the equalizer:
While the above items have weapon qualities and are now allowed inside the passenger area of an airplane, there is one more thing that has been allowed since shortly after 9/11; a renewed sense of mindset against attack. Pe- 9/11 conditioning saw the average American possessing the “it’s not my responsibility” attitude. We had been conditioned over and over again to submit to the bad guy, and the good guys would be here soon to fix everything. Armed with only box cutters, terrorists were able to commit massive amounts of murder and damage because of this instilled mindset.
With the knowledge of certain death, the last plane overcame this mindset barrier. With two words, “Let’s roll”, they overpowered their attackers and prevented terrorists from carrying out their plan.
In the years after 9/11, passengers fly with the realization that those that have promised to make them safe may fail to do so. They are more aware. Richard “The Shoe Bomber” Reid was overpowered by passengers before he could carry out his plans. Umar “The underwear bomber” Abdulmutallab was similarly subdued by passengers after his explosive failed o detonate properly.
So, with the TSA’s easing of certain prohibited items, it is unclear if these items will pose a greater risk to passenger safety, or possibly even enhance it. It’s likely a bad guy will get subdued whatever the item he chooses to use as passengers recognize their own personal responsibility for their safety.