The Mil & Aero Blog
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
  Win some, lose some
Posted by Courtney E. Howard

In life, you win some and you lose some. Sitting in McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas, slot machines silent all about me, I am reminded of this fact. It rings true in life in general, in sales, in the court system, when it comes to gambling, and it even extends to one's occupation. It is a powerful phrase, and the subject of many a song. It helps the general populace better accept events that could be considered mistakes, losses, or failures. I have trouble accepting "losing some," however, when it comes to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) in the United States Department of Homeland Security.

I was arriving at McCarran when I first heard the news. "Corporal Justin Reed, 22, is under arrest in Boston after authorities found the bomb-making materials, a handgun and ammunition in luggage that passed a security inspection at McCarran Airport in Las Vegas," Fox 5 News in Las Vegas reported. "The Transportation Security Administration said Monday that materials found in a U.S. Marine's luggage, including a hand grenade fuse and three model rocket engines 'did not pose an imminent threat to aviation.'"

Heh?! Perhaps I did not hear that right.

I will check Boston.com to see what those reporters are saying: "During a layover at Logan International Airport Sunday morning, federal baggage screeners going through his military-style backpack found a semiautomatic handgun, a fully loaded gun magazine, a grenade fuse and detonator, and model rocket engines containing explosive mixtures. The bag had been checked without incident at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas."

No incident. Not an imminent threat. Not buying it.

Here is the deal: I love the TSA, and what it stands for (as described at tsa.gov): We are your neighbors, friends and relatives. We are 50,000 security officers, inspectors, directors, air marshals and managers who protect the nation's transportation systems so you and your family can travel safely. We look for bombs at checkpoints in airports, we inspect rail cars, we patrol subways with our law enforcement partners, and we work to make all modes of transportation safe." The site further carries the headline, "Your Safety Is Our Priority."

I am not sure I could bring myself to fly were it not for TSA officials checking for riff-raff. I trust in them. Now, though, I would say that trust is dashed. Mistakes happen. They are only human. You win some... None of these turns of phrase are helping put me, and millions of others, at ease.

We do our part -- lots of us with a smile and a thank you. We show up two hours early. We limit our liquids. We remove our shoes, jackets, and all things metal. We pull out our computers and baggie of liquids. We even, at one time, surrendered our expensive mascara and lipstick because we did not realize that they were considered "creams." We make awkward jokes when we get patted down, follow direction when being scanned with a wand, and blush when a stranger rifles through our skivvies.

A majority of us are very grateful someone is looking out for us and doing their part to protect us from harm. TSA, please consider that this event, that baggage, and even a U.S. Marine could have posed a very real and imminent threat to public safety. Thank you to all those Transportation Security Officers who take their job seriously, stay alert and diligent on the job, are dedicated to public safety, and practice their craft with patience, politeness, courtesy, and understanding.
 
Comments:
Wait a minute: this is *checked* luggage, not carry-on baggage. TSA specifically says that we are allowed to ship firearms in checked baggage, as long as it's declared, unloaded, and packed in a hard-sided container (we're supposed to check with the airline regarding ammunition). Reed's gun was not loaded - it was in the separate magazine, where it belongs (if properly secured per the TSA rules).

OK, Reed should have declared it, but Marines are not known to be the sharpest tools in the shed.

Three model rocket motors are considered "bomb-making material"?
Come on, get a life.

Admittedly, if a fire would have been started in the luggage comparent of the aircraft, and the bullets and rocket motors would have gone off, then there would be some cause for concern, but if you have a fire in the luggage compartment of an aircraft, then you already have a significant cause for concern.

A 'semiautomatic' handgun? A majority of handguns sold today are semiautomatics, not revolvers (those are the ones you see in Westerns). Courtney Howard's choice of words is exposing her bias (not just ignorance).

The TSA is un-American organization that is required (byt their job) to violate your rights, whether or not you love them. 9/11 happened because of a policy of appeasing hijackers. The passengers on United 93 changed that policy and probably saved the people then in the White House. In all known cases of airline disturbances since 9/11, fellow passengers have physically restrained attempted hijackers and other in-flight criminals (sometimes with excessive force, e.g. Jon Burton).

If I had to choose between trusting a U.S. Marine (how puts his/her life on the line when he/she enlists), or a TSA agent (how has a boring job with too much power), I'd trust the former.
 
They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety. -Ben Franklin
 
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