Just last week, the TSA found fifty one firearms, forty five of which were loaded. Twenty of the loaded guns had rounds in the chamber. They also found ammunition, inert grenades and artillery shells, a saw concealed within a Bible, razor blades hidden in a shoe, and fourteen stun guns — including one disguised as a cell phone.
Many people like to cast the Transportation Security Administration into a negative light, calling the T.S.A. "Thousands Standing Around," "Tearing Suitcases Apart" or "They Steal Anything." But for all the grief they're given, the officers serve a useful and needed function as a layer of defense for our travels.
A few of the guns that the TSA confiscated between April 4-10, 2014. Photo from the TSA blog.
We'll never know if the people attempting to travel with these things intended to use them in a malicious way, but we can probably all agree that these things are best left off of planes. In March of 2013, TSA Administrator John Pistole proposed that people should be allowed to carry small knives and sports equipment like golf clubs and hockey sticks on board in airplane cabins. However, flight attendants argued that allowing those things presented an unnecessary safety risk to flights, the TSA eventually backed down.
The agency is far from flawless. Last week, the TSA drew national attention to itself by denying a wheelchair-bound mute woman from passing through the security checkpoint in order to fly from Los Angeles to Phoenix. In the past, the TSA has also been criticized for the way it screened children, elderly and physically disabled passengers. Because we haven't lost another plane to terrorists in America since September 11th, 2001, you could argue that the agency has fulfilled a successful mission.
There obviously needs to be a level of security as passengers fly from place to place, and right now the TSA is pretty much the only option. Until a better, more efficient option comes along, we'll get to keep complaining about how terrible and dehumanizing it is to fly. But as I like to say, flying isn't a right — it's a privilege.