Two men remove utility knives from their carry-on bags and throw them away before boarding a flight.
October 15, 2001 8:51 AM   Subscribe

Two men remove utility knives from their carry-on bags and throw them away before boarding a flight. They were seen and reported, and subsequently arrested at the security checkpoint. One has been charged with improper use of a weapon. I'm hoping there's more to this story that we're not being told, otherwise it sounds plainly wrong to me. Yeah, they were dumb to have them, but there are reasons people use these knives and even travel with them.
posted by Qubit (20 comments total)
What else are you supposed to do with them? I imagine that a utility knife is something that you wouldn't even consider until you approach the M16-armed guards at the x-ray machine.

From the sounds of the article, they may have even been the "disposable" kind of knife.

What's the alternative, taking it out of your pocket to show security? Ever try pointing a knife at security?
posted by ringmaster at 9:27 AM on October 15, 2001

I have an aunt who carries a little bitty 'ladies' gun' in her purse for, you know, protection in the event of muggings or whatever. I think she's never had to use it but it's there. Anyway, she had to go to the county courthouse one day, to deal with some business-related paperwork, and she was in the security line at the courthouse before remembering the gun in her purse. She didn't want to leave the line and possibly be seen as suspicious, so when she got to the x-ray machine and checkpoint she told them straight up, There's a gun in my bag I forgot I had, do you want to take it from me?

They did, and arrested her while they were at it.

Also of note: one of the guys in the story was charged with "disorderly conduct", which to me always seemed the grown-up equivalent of your middle school student handbook's "insubordination" rule. i.e.: if we can't get you on anything else, we'll get you on this.

Were these guys (and my aunt) not thinking to take their weapons where they did? Apparently. But are these criminal acts? Not based on the facts as presented in this story.
posted by Sapphireblue at 9:41 AM on October 15, 2001

I sure hope there's a store at the airport where I can buy a new utility knife. Next time I'm on my way to a client's office to deal with cabling I'll have fun getting my tools there.
posted by SEWilco at 9:57 AM on October 15, 2001

I used to always bring some kind of knife to tradeshows so that I could deal with opening
boxes, cutting electric tape, and the assorted other things one has to do with setting up a booth.
I can distinctly remember bringing one in carry on luggage years ago. Now, though, I wouldn't
even think about it.
posted by brucec at 10:06 AM on October 15, 2001

I'll have fun getting my tools there.

As long as you put them in your checked baggage, everything should be fine. It's carryons that security is concerned about.
posted by MrBaliHai at 10:18 AM on October 15, 2001

Now, I'm not going to name names here, mainly because I can't, that is, I rarely remember who posts what, but for all the people here who really support this war, I think you better think twice about complainoing about this sort of thing. This war has made every place in this country, but especially airports a serious security risk, so any cop not wanting to get his or her ass put in a sling better over react to every little percieved threat. I find this whole curtailment of civil liberties very scary and don't really see how putting ourselves in this position really helps anything.

Personally, I think the whole thing is fucoqued, but by the same token, if at this point in time you actually enter an airport with something even remotely resembling a weapon, you are stupid enough to get whatever happens to you.
posted by bob bisquick at 10:18 AM on October 15, 2001

I have a weird question... something that has been puzzling me since September 11th.

What the heck is a "box cutter?" Do they mean a utility knife, or is this something else. Every news story I've seen has used the phrase blithely without defining it, but I'd like to know what it is.

Any experts? Any images? Is this a regional phrase?
posted by jpburns at 10:24 AM on October 15, 2001

when i think of box cutter, i think of those rectangular shaped tools with the little thumb switch that you use to push a triangular blade out.

if i'm right, they're only about an inch or a little more long when fully extended, but they're sharp as hell and can do some major damage.

but as far as this goes -- i mean, come on, how fucking stupid would you have to be to carry one of these into an airport *NOW?*
posted by aenemated at 10:30 AM on October 15, 2001

box cutter
posted by dogmatic at 10:32 AM on October 15, 2001

You beat me to it, dogmatic.
Since I always come equipped with a pen knife and assorted corkscrews and so forth, I *always* have to clean my purse and my pockets and move all that stuff into my suitcase before I fly. I wonder if my pair of chopsticks is going to cause me problems in these over-reactive days?
posted by realjanetkagan at 10:44 AM on October 15, 2001

Barbara Olson, one of the hijacked-plane passengers used the term "box cutter" to describe the terrorists' weapons during a cell phone call with her husband. (Her husband happens to be the Solicitor General of the United States.)

I had not heard the term before press accounts of that call, despite having worked with "box cutters" in the past. I suspect most of the press had not either. I think we used to call them "razors" where I worked.
posted by Mid at 11:01 AM on October 15, 2001

I'm worried about my knitting needles.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 11:01 AM on October 15, 2001

Mr. Bisquick -
It's not a matter of war supporters and what liberties we're giving up to ensure freedom (all of which I believe is a can of drek anyway), but what normal people who are conscious of the problem are doing.

It would be a different matter altogether if they had been looking suspicious, and when followed by security guards ditched their weapons.

I wonder how they pulled off this operation in the first place. I mean, wouldn't they have at least had to check the trash can before arresting them? They could have thrown away gum wrappers for all the observer knew.
posted by ringmaster at 11:49 AM on October 15, 2001

there are several different types of box cutters that go by different names (utility knife and box knife and such). most have short blades or safety features that only allow a portion of a longer blade to be exposed. others allow three or four inches of blade to be exposed (imagine this one without the guard on the edges of the blade), and are available for less than a dollar from major retail chains.

i know way too much about box cutters. i worked for Hell-Mart as a young lad and had the enviable job of evaluating box cutters for safety for use by employees (someone had to do it. there are a lot of dumb-asses working for Hell-Mart).
posted by tolkhan at 12:27 PM on October 15, 2001

a) I always carry a Swiss Army Knife and it's never been a problem before when I've flown (which I haven't done for the last eight or ten months). I pull it out of my pocket, drop it in the change bucket, walk through, pick it up.

b) I never check baggage.

I guess I'm going to have to start checking baggage, just so I can carry stuff I always carry. Are we going to see a rash of people checking fanny-packs?

Oh yeah, I have a co-worker that shaves with a straight razor. I guess his shaving kit is now a lethal weapon.
posted by djfiander at 12:43 PM on October 15, 2001

about three years ago my then 12 year old daughter forgot she had a pocket knife with her while we were in line to visit the Capitol Building in of course she pulls it out(about 4 inches long, closed) looks at it and shoves it back into her pocket-the next words I hear as I stand there unable to BREATHE is "can we see that sweetheart" from security(we were lined up at the metal detector!)

I can imagine what they would do to her NOW. We won't even talk about the time her brother, then aged 5, thought he was taking his squirt gun in a manilla envelope on board the plane to go see grandma......and you wonder why moms have gray hair...........

Back in "79 as an art student I was flying back for Christmas with my art box in hand-they made me take all my xacto knives apart-boxcutters too(we cut mats with those) and tape them up.....o how secure I felt....not.
posted by bunnyfire at 2:46 PM on October 15, 2001

I remember 2 years ago having to separately check my small swiss army knife at Kathmandu airport. But then again at that airport they actually physically searched all the passengers before you were allowed on the plane. This was after going through the normal airport scanners.

I thought it was excessive but I guess it will be the norm from now on.
posted by cmacleod at 3:32 PM on October 15, 2001

Here in New Zealand they seem to realise that the general population likes to carry skinning knives, machetes, stone axes etc about, so airports have set up "amnesty bins" just before the X-ray. I'd love to rummage in them at the end of the day.
posted by Catch at 4:17 PM on October 15, 2001

What checked baggage?

This new "no sharp objects" rule is a pointless nuisance, as it will not improve security to any measurable degree.

posted by Mars Saxman at 8:56 PM on October 15, 2001

At my local Target, a while back, I was looking for one. There were about half-a-dozen box-cutter blister packs hanging from a hook.

Every single blister pack had been ripped open so that the box cutter within could be shoplifted.

Apparently they're quite the weapon of choice in some high schools.
posted by dhartung at 1:19 AM on October 16, 2001

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