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Ho, hum — more airport security madness

Posted by Richard on June 14, 2006

We’ve all seen the absurd stories about TSA personnel confiscating nail clippers and knitting needles and pictures of guns, or had our own encounters with brain-dead airport security-bots, or had to resist making a smart-ass remark when asked the inane question, "Has anyone put anything into your luggage without your knowing it?"

Well, don’t think America’s Transportation Security Agency is unique. Apparently, there’s something about the very nature of airport security that compels bureaucracies devoted to it worldwide to hire morons and train them to enforce insane rules rigidly. This story fails to explicitly identify the airport, but: the only "Cape Town" I know of is in South Africa:

A girl of six triggered a security scare at an airport – with a pink Bugs Bunny water pistol rammed full of sweets.

Kelly Vinnicombe was bought the £2.50 toy in the departure lounge by her mother Sarah, and packed it in her bag.

But, as they went through the X-ray security machine, guards hauled them to one side.

Ms Vinnicombe, 34, was told the toy was technically a ‘weapon’ and would have to be registered at the firearms desk.

She spent an hour explaining where the gun came from – just metres away in an airport shop – before the toy was tagged and packed in a separate part of the plane.

Ms Vinnicombe, of Plymouth, Devon, said: ‘It’s bright pink with Bugs Bunny on it.’

The pair were reunited with their cargo at Heathrow Airport after an 11-hour flight.

A Cape Town airport spokeswoman insisted: ‘It’s is better to be safe than sorry.’

Yes, just imagine the recriminations if little Kelly had been allowed to board the plane with her Bugs Bunny water pistol and had subsequently hijacked it.

"Technically a ‘weapon’" — where do they find people like that?

Meanwhile, here in the U.S., some members of the Federal Air Marshal Service (FAMS) have gone public with a problem they’ve been complaining about within the agency to no avail:

Several marshals say their bullets can penetrate most of the material in planes, leaving pilots and the plane’s hydraulics and flight-control system vulnerable if a weapon is discharged. Cockpit doors have been hardened with steel, but the walls on either side of the door have not.

Another marshal told the House committee agents should be issued ammunition loaded with frangible bullets, which break into smaller pieces on impact and thus have limited power to exit the target and continue.

"An aircraft is made up of composites, plastics, and aluminum. If a round were to penetrate through the front plastic/composite windshield of the aircraft, the results would be catastrophic at 500 miles per hour. We should be using frangible ammunition. It’s a no-brainer," the Nov. 27 memo said.

The FAMS issues SIG SAUER pistols in .357 SIG caliber, loaded with 125-grain Speer Gold Dot hollowpoints. 1350 feet per second. ‘Cause, well, when you’re forced to shoot someone inside an airliner, you’re going to be glad you have a very high-speed, flat-trajectory round that can take someone out at great distances, even through a car door or windshield. Right?

Hey, it’s what the Secret Service carries to protect the President. And some state highway patrol agencies have been very pleased with their performance. Guarding an airliner is just like protecting the President or patrolling many miles of highway, right?

I’m astonished that they’re not using a frangible or pre-fragmented round, such as the Glaser Safety Slug or the MagSafe.

Apparently, air marshals used to carry 9mm pistols loaded with frangibles, but former director Thomas Quinn switched them to the current choice. That’s the same Thomas Quinn who insisted that air marshals wear suits or sport coats and ties, thus ensuring that hijackers could spot them easily. After Quinn was replaced, along with his idiotic dress code, someone at DHS should have initiated a re-examination of every substantive decision that maroon made.

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