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Relaxing rules

After terrorists turned of aircraft into jet-fueled bombs on 9/11, the United States tightened up security.

That new travel experience — headed up by the Transportation Security Administration — has included long lines through all kinds of security checkpoints and the ban on a number of carry-on items, ranging from razor blades and aerosol cans to lacrosse sticks and large containers of shampoo. Travelers weren’t forced to leave these items and others at home, but to put them in checked-in luggage ... they just couldn’t bring them inside the passenger compartment.

These restrictions, along with other measures taken by the TSA, have made traveling by airplane safer ... that’s easily demonstrated by the lack of similar attacks.

So it’s more than a little surprising for the TSA this week to announce that it was lifting the carry-on ban when it comes to knives shorter than 2.3 inches. The rules on sports equipment were also changed, so that passengers can now carry two golf clubs, toy bats or items like ski poles, hockey sticks, lacrosse sticks and pool cues.

According to a statement released by the TSA, the changes are “... part of an overall Risk-Based Security approach, which allows Transportation Security Officers to better focus their efforts on finding higher threat items such as explosives.”

“The charter, the mission of TSA is to stop an airplane from being used as a weapon and to stop catastrophic damage to that aircraft,” explained David Castelveter, a spokesman for the agency. TSA Administrator John Pistole’s position, he said, is “these small knives, these baseball bats, these sporting items aren’t going to contribute to bringing an airplane down.”

Pistole may be right with the sports equipment, but with the knives he isn’t taking into account how such items are seen as a real threat to the passengers and the flight attendants.

Lifting the ban on small knives “will add little value to the customer security process flow in relation to the additional risk for our cabin staff and customers,” retorted Delta CEO Richard Anderson in a letter to Pistole. Other groups, including a number of members of Congress, are also calling on Pistole to rethink the decision.

“These items are dangerous, and have not become less so in the years since they were banned from planes,” said New York Sen. Chuck Schumer. “... now is not the time for reduced vigilance, or to place additional burdens on TSA agents who should be looking for dangerous items, not wasting time measuring the length of a knife blade.”

The TSA can take other steps to streamline how passengers get through security as well as looking for the bigger threats. No one has died by not being allowed to bring a knife with them. But you do run the risk of someone, be it a passenger or crew member getting hurt if even small knives are allowed.

For both physical and psychological safety, the TSA should reverse its decision.

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