Thursday, December 22, 2005

Arming Citizens with Ordinary Tools is Arming Terrorists with.....What Exactly?

I understand that today, the ban against small scissors and other sharp objects has been lifted by the Transportation Administration, allowing passengers to bring aboard such tools upon their person, or in carry-on bags, during flight.

Apparently, 9/11 families, flight attendants, and others think it's a bad move on the part of the TSA. According to Corey Caldwell, spokesperson for the Association of Flight Attendants, "TSA needs to take a moment to reflect on why they were created in the first place -- after the world had seen how ordinary household items could create such devastation...When weapons are allowed back on board an aircraft, the pilots will be able to land the plane safety but the aisles will be running with blood."

"Ordinary household items". Yes, anything and everything, in the hands of someone with the proper mindset, can be improvised and used to wreck great harm and havoc. "Scissors less than 4 inches in length" is nothing more than a tool. "Screwdrivers less than 7 inches long"- although for the life of me, I don't know why anyone needs to take one on board unless it's to do some maintenance work on the foldout trays- is a tool, no different than the sharpened pencils in your briefcase.

Bob Hesselbein, the Air Line Pilots Association's national security committee chairman, says pilots believe that it is more important to read a person's intent by observing behavior, rather than worry so much about what it is that passengers are carrying. As he puts it, "A Swiss army knife in the briefcase of a frequent flyer we know very well is a tool.....A ballpoint pen in the hands of a terrorist is a weapon." And that's exactly right. I wrote a post before about how the Israelis do it, and the value of profiling behavior.

Right after 9/11, I complained to my dad about the unreasonable ban on such items as taking nail clippers and tweezers aboard airlines. He agreed, that it is an overreaction response. It is similar to how a public school banned plastic bags because a student dies from suffocation; or scissors are banned from school because a troubled kid turns violent. Scissors are a tool. How does one participate in art class without such tools?

I think most people who are outraged by the TSA's decision are not thinking things through clearly and logically. And do not understand that the argument here is rather similar to the ones made for and against the availability of firearms. As it's commonly joked about, "Guns don't kill people anymore than spoons make Rosie O'Donnell fat".

Also, TSA's decision is based upon allocating their limited budget and limited resources intelligently, and not squander it wastefully and unecessarily to give people a false sense of security:
"Homeland Security Department officials are increasingly concerned about airports' vulnerability to suicide bomb attacks. TSA officials now want airport screeners to spend more of their time looking for improvised explosive devices rather than sharp objects."

If I were a criminally-minded terrorist seeking to harm passengers, I could just as easily kill you by taking a ball-point pen and ramming it through your eye-socket; or rupture your carotid artery; as a terrorist I would have made it my life's mission to train in violence and know just what body organs to target. I could take the metal pitcher used to serve hot coffee, utilizing both the pitcher and its contents for something other than what it was designed for; or improvise a can of hairspray or perfume as an "offense spray" and eye irritant.

I personally am not afraid of small tools, because that's all that they are: tools. And rest assured, that if terrorists are able to legally bring aboard small knives, even, with blades under 4 inches, they won't be the only ones doing so. I'll bring aboard my own "equalizer". I'm pretty handy with a pair of tweezers and know just where to pinch you! So back off, terrorists!

Firearms, on the other hand are weapons; federal air marshals so armed, might be a good thing; but I'd question the wisdom of mandating airplane pilots to be required to carry one; especially if they are uncomfortable and unmotivated in training diligently in combative handgun use for close-quarters. The whole advantage of a firearm is in its superiority at causing damage from a distance. Aboard plane, much of its weapons' superiority is compromised and a it can be argued that a sharp blade flailing around at lightning speed might overwhelm what is just a "bullet shooter"; that when not aimed at you, other than perhaps a muzzle flash and some powder burns, can't really harm you the way a knife can.

Of course, then there's the issue of stray bullets possibly damaging the hull of the plane. Not sure I like the idea of that...

What happened aboard the 9/11 flights will never happen again. We were caught unawares. We had not anticipated that terrorists would hijack with the goal in mind of not surviving the act of hijacking, and turn airliners into flown missles. In a post-9/11 world, hijackers will find themselves faced outnumbered and overwhelmed by passengers and crewmembers who know that passivity is not the proper response to terrorism. Scissors and screwdrivers or not.

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Blogger Shoelimpy™ said...

The terrorists hijacked the planes that flew into the Towers were armed with boxcutters. Boxcutters. They can do a lot of damage with scissors. And if others are allowed to bring them on the plane, how hard is it for the terrorists to rob the average flyer of these potentially dangerous items.

Thursday, December 22, 2005 1:23:00 PM  
Blogger The WordSmith from Nantucket said...

It's as if my entire point were overlooked. :insert rolleyes emoticon:

Scissors under 4 inches, dude. Its inherent characteristics are not perfectly adaptable to combat; although, there's no question I could kill with it. I doubt it would have much ability as a slashing tool, although it could definitely rend flesh. Good for puncture and stab wounds. But you give me a solid ballpoint pen, and I guarantee you I could wreck a lot of havoc with it. Passengers have the advantage of numbers. And with the right mind-set on the part of those who choose not to live their lives like sheep, they can improvise blankets and other items on hand as defensive weapons of their own.

Your comment (which, I do appreciate you visiting and reading here) frustrates me in that you haven't told me anything new; anything I haven't already gone over in my head. And it doesn't acknowledge my points, to argue against the specific substance of what I said in my post.

Terrorists on board a plane armed no better than I, need to be taught to fear their victims.

I know very well the damage bladed weapons can do in close-quarters. In many ways, I'd say it can be even more effective than a handgun in close-quarter combat. But it doesn't make the person so armed, god. It doesn't make him invulnerable to being disarmed and neutralized.

Thursday, December 22, 2005 2:07:00 PM  
Blogger whit said...

If pilots can be trusted to take-off, fly and land the leviathan aircraft, surely they can be trusted with hand guns.

Thursday, December 22, 2005 3:55:00 PM  
Blogger Semper Fi said...

"Homeland Security Department officials are increasingly concerned about airports' vulnerability to suicide bomb attacks. TSA officials now want airport screeners to spend more of their time looking for improvised explosive devices rather than sharp objects."

By inference, the above statement says the government and TSA have not been doing a thorough job screening for explosives; in addition, by inference, the government and the TSA are saying they have been concentrating more on nail clippers and the like rather than explosives.

As a frequent flyer, somehow this admission by the government and TSA is a bit unsettling, soon to be made even more so when the Defeatocrats get done emasculating the president's wiretapping authority used to ferret out terrorists' plots, including those plots to blow up airplanes....

Thursday, December 22, 2005 5:29:00 PM  
Blogger The WordSmith from Nantucket said...

If pilots can be trusted to take-off, fly and land the leviathan aircraft, surely they can be trusted with hand guns.

It's not that I don't trust them. If a pilot trains in the use of handguns, combatively in their unique environment, and has a thoroughly intimate understanding of the limitations and advantages of firearms in the confines of the cabin, then more power to them. But not all pilots may feel comfortable; and people like this might not be dedicated to train seriously in the use of their firearm under stressful conditions. When that's the case, the handgun can become more of a liability. The last thing you would want is for the pilots to be taken by surprise and disarmed, only to have their weapons used against them.

Just because you are good at flying a 747, does not make one an expert at close-quarter combat.

Thursday, December 22, 2005 8:53:00 PM  
Blogger Pamela Reece said...

After hearing this story, this was the first thought that came to my mind: "Almost all airline passenger planes now have locked, inpentrable cockpit doors. Also, look at what happend to the "shoe bomber"...American passengers are more alert and would stop at nothing, including risking their own life, to stop and disarm a terrorist. Finally, we have Air Marshalls on passenger planes." My conclusion, I'm not afriad of small objects on airplanes, although my eyebrow tweezers can be pretty painful.

Saturday, December 24, 2005 6:23:00 PM  

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