Lawmakers to TSA: No knives on planes

A bipartisan group of House lawmakers is pressing the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to reverse its decision to allow knives on airplanes for the first time since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

TSA announced last week that it is relaxing its prohibitions on airline passengers carrying knives with blades shorter than 2.36 inches and sporting equipment like golf clubs and toy baseball bats in their carry-on luggage.

The changes to the TSA's list of prohibited items are scheduled to take effect in April.

But Reps. Michael G. Grimm (R, N.Y.), Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) and Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) said Tuesday in a letter to TSA Administrator John Pistole that the agency should reconsider its decision.

"On September 11, 2001, hijackers on board United 93, United 175, American 77, and American 11 took over these planes using mace, box cutters and knives to attack passengers and crew," the lawmakers wrote to Pistole. 

"After these deadly terrorist attacks of 9/11, all knives and dangerous sporting equipment, like pool cues, were placed on a list of prohibited items and banned from planes," the lawmakers continued. "Congress acted swiftly to ensure that TSA was afforded the resources and authority to ensure a secure aviation system for the American flying public.  We strongly believe that the prohibition of dangerous items is an integral layer in the safety of our aviation system."

Prior to TSA's decision to relax its list of items that are prohibited from carry-on luggage, knives and other blunt objects viewed a potential weapons had to be stored in passengers’ checked bags.

Since announcing its decision, TSA has said that allowing small knives on planes "aligns [U.S. airport security] with international standards and our European counterparts."

"TSA is taking small knives, novelty-sized bats and certain sporting equipment off of the Prohibited Items List starting April 25, which will allow Transportation Security Officers to better focus their efforts on finding higher threat items such as explosives and/or improvised explosive device (IED) components," the agency said in a statement the day the announcement was made.

The agency has also taken pains to assure airline passengers that relaxing its prohibition on allowing knives on planes would not make flying less safe.

"Small knives, novelty-sized bats and certain sporting equipment are unlikely to result in catastrophic destruction of an aircraft," TSA said. "In the context of a layered approach to security, hardened cockpit doors further reduce the likelihood of breaching the cockpit. Federal Flight Deck Officers, crewmembers with self-defense training and Federal Air Marshals will help to ensure the safety of all crewmembers and passengers."

However, Grimm, Swalwell and Thompson said on Tuesday that they were echoing those groups' concern about the relaxed TSA rules.

"The Coalition of Flight Attendant Unions, the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, and the Coalition of Airline Pilots Associations oppose TSA’s policy change and do not believe that policies that promote standards of safety and security should be relaxed," the lawmakers wrote to Pistole. 

"The concerns of these groups, composed of aviation sector employees who will be directly impacted by this policy, as well as other aviation sector stakeholders, should be heard through the existing [Aviation Security Advisory Committee] process prior to implementation of a policy that would permit passengers to bring knives and certain sporting equipment into the passenger compartment of a plane."