Another story to add to the "TSA competence" file.
Earlier this month a woman named Jen (who fearing reprisals from the TSA, has refused to provide her last name [yet still proactively contacted a local television station…]) forgot to remove a stun gun from her carry-on bag before her flight from Omaha to St. Louis. The TSA never caught it.
Onboard her flight, she reached into her bag and was shocked to pull out the 200,000 volt weapon. She quickly placed it back in her purse and said nothing. The flight landed without incident.
I look at this story in two ways. First, this was a big mistake by the TSA. Nude-o-scopes (which OMA has) and metal detectors are fine and dandy, but they’re not going to catch weapons in carry-on bags! Designed not too look like weapons, stun guns often resemble cameras, electric shavers, or even lip stick tubes, so it is understandable why a TSA screener missed Jen’s weapon. On the other hand, the TSA boasts they employ "highly trained professionals" and I must concede that if someone wanted to bring a plane down, a stun gun might aid in that effort.
Let’s lay out the potential scenario: our "terrorist" is sitting in 1B and after leveling off the captain wants to use the lavatory. A drink cart is slid in front of row one, but when the door opens, 1B whips out the stun gun, dazes the two FAs and the captain, leaps over the service cart, and into the flight deck before the first officer can shut the door. Unlikely, yes. Implausible, no?
But here’s the second way I look at the incident. Nothing happened. The woman found the stun gun and put it back in her bag. Everyone was fine. No one panicked. And what would it cost in terms of technological development, time, money, and civil liberties for the TSA to always find every concealed weapons? Without strip searching everyone and scrutinizing every nook and cranny of their bag, this undertaking is impossible. That’s just a risk we have to take when fly–and one I am willing to take.
Go back to my hypo above. What if the passenger in 1A or 1C quickly reacts when 1B pulls out a stun gun? What if the captain is able to get the door shut? What if 1B misses one of the FAs who grabs a pot of hot coffee and scalds his face as an Air Marshall beats him into submission?
We can live in fear or we can accept the fact that we’ll never be fully safe. Rather than worrying about worst case scenarios, we can be confident that there remain multiple levels of security and remind ourselves that it would be counterproductive to get worked up over incidents like Jen’s and the hundreds more that go unreported.