by Keith Laing, The Hill Newspaper
A group of 145 House members has signed a letter to the head of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) calling for the agency to permanently drop its idea of allowing small knives on airplanes.
The TSA had planned to begin allowing airlines passengers to carry knives with blades shorter than 2.36 inches in their carry-on bags last month. But the agency relented on the proposal after intense push back from lawmakers and aviation groups.
The bipartisan group of House members who wrote to TSA Administrator John Pistole on Wednesday said that that agency should retire the plan to allow knives onto planes for good.
“We commend the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) decision last month to delay the implementation of changes to the prohibited items list announced on March 5, 2013,” the lawmakers wrote to Pistole.
“We understand that you have asked the Aviation Security Advisory Advisory Committee (ASAC) to review the proposed changes to the prohibited items list and provide recommendations,” the lawmakers continued. “We agree that TSA should seek comments from all stakeholders prior to making such a sweeping change.”
But citing a “chorus of objections” to the proposal to allow knives onto airplanes for the first time since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the lawmakers wrote “we urge you to keep the rule simple: no knives on planes.”
Meanwhile, Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) said on Wednesday that they were introducing legislation to take the decision out of the TSA’s hands.
“The TSA’s dangerous new policy will put passengers, flight attendants and pilots at risk and we must reverse it to make sure our airplanes are secure,” Schumer said in a statement. “Knives should continue to be kept off passenger planes and this legislation will make sure of that, once and for all.”
The agency had planned to remove small knives and other large objects such as golf clubs from its prohibited items list on April 25.
The TSA argued that the reversal of its currents complete ban on knives on planes “aligns [U.S. airport security] with international standards and our European counterparts.”
The lawmakers who wrote to Pistole on Tuesday said allowing knives onto planes “creates unnecessary risk for the traveling public and those who serve them at 30,000 feet.”
“Over the last two months, we have heard from flight attendants, air marshals, pilots, passengers, TSA screeners and airlines who are unequivocal in their unified view that allowing knives to be brought into the cabin of passenger planes is dangerous, unnecessary and irresponsible,” they wrote. “Putting TSA agents in charge of judging which knives are permissible and which must be confiscated while also decrease security and increase wait times for passengers.”
The senators that filed legislation to block the change agreed.
“Allowing knives on airplanes would exacerbate security problems at airports and onboard flights, not reduce them,” Lautenberg said in a a statement. “One of the airplanes used during the September 11th attacks departed from Newark Liberty Airport, and small weapons were used by several of the attackers. The 9/11 attacks serve as a constant reminder of the dangers we face with airline travel, and this legislation would help us remain vigilant in protecting both passengers and flight crews.”