The Transportation Safety Administration released a barrage of PR today, hitting every news channel possible on what must be a slow news day. (Where’s Korea again? Oh, way over there.) Their message: airport screeners are protecting us from passengers carrying weapons aboard airliners.
And boy are they! Since February of last year, they’ve seized almost 1,500 guns, 2.3 million knives, and 50,000 box cutters. If they hadn’t been on the ball, all of our flights might have been hijacked!
But wait a second. What are we supposed to make of those numbers? Does this mean that 2.3 million knives made it on board during the 16 months before February of 2002? Or does it mean that they have seen an uptick of confiscations? That might actually be news, though I suspect if this were the case, they would have made it part of the story.
Obviously, 2.3 million people were not all planning to use their pocket knives to hijack a plane. Maybe 3 were. I don’t know.
So what it means is that they’ve managed to deprive millions of people of their tools and knives and guns, but they haven’t made clear that this has made the skies much safer.
Now don’t get me wrong. I like the idea that they have a metal detector on the way into a flight. I even don’t mind them at concerts, and in courthouses. But these figures demonstrate the obvious: the security checkpoints work really well at stopping those who mean no harm from bringing things onboard. I am glad they have started to allow people to carry their nail clippers again, but I think that the best move is for them to (a) chill and (b) fund the air marshal program.