Who needs boxcutters, when you can just pack a gun
October 25, 2001 12:23 PM   Subscribe

Who needs boxcutters, when you can just pack a gun In the midst of so-called heightend security, a man accidentally brings a loaded gun onto a plane undetected. I know Southwest doesn't have meals, but do they not have metal detectors either? from Amy Langfield's always entertaining blog.
posted by tsarfan (24 comments total)
The X-ray person probably thought it was a really neat pencil sharpener.

There's ALWAYS going to be human error. Still, though, this is entertaining.

And I love the fact that some guy can bring a loaded firearm onto the plane and be just jim dandy, but that poor kid with the book gets the third degree. La la la...
posted by solistrato at 12:38 PM on October 25, 2001

>I know Southwest doesn't have meals, but do they not have metal detectors either?

I always thought there was a version of the Glock made from plastic (except the firing pin). I'm sure someone has found a way to make non-metal bullets as well...
posted by shepd at 12:44 PM on October 25, 2001

shepd - you heard incorrectly. The "plastic gun" is a myth. Some components of the Glock 17 are indeed made of plastic, but the gun contains a pound of steel (83% of it's total weight).
posted by jaek at 12:49 PM on October 25, 2001

This is a surprise?

Airport security has always been more for show than for substance. It makes people feel good, without actually accomplishing anything except discouraging the less-than-fully-committed criminals.

I've said it before, and will say it again: words like "secure" are relative terms. Think in terms of "more secure" or "less secure," rather than "secure v. insecure."

Anybody who guarantees your security is lying.
posted by yesster at 12:52 PM on October 25, 2001

Even if a gun could get through airport security lets say, 1 in 100 times, its unlikely a terrorist would bother trying to get one on a plane. The 99 times the gun would be found acts as a deterent to the serious criminals, not the "less-than-fully-committed criminals," as Yesster believes. Because, of course, terrorists have a lot to lose by being caught. Some dumbass who forgets he has a gun on him doesn't.
posted by Doug at 12:59 PM on October 25, 2001

to be nit-picky, Southwest isn't in charge of the metal detectors, the airport is, so it has nothing to do with which airline they were on, in my opinion.
posted by iamjacksamnesia at 1:07 PM on October 25, 2001

This isn't really all that remarkable, because the same clowns are still sitting at the X-ray machine. Until Congress passes a freaking airport security bill, we are stuck with underqualified and underpaid security people. It is just stupifying that the House is holding up the federalization of airport security.
posted by Mid at 1:10 PM on October 25, 2001

Can someone explain why federalization=professionalization? Couldn't you just pay people more? The feds could bankroll it, but why do they have to run it?
posted by luser at 1:35 PM on October 25, 2001

It is just stupifying that the House is holding up the federalization of airport security.

As if having government employees sitting there is going to automatically raise the intelligence the amount of effort Joe Q X-ray puts into his job. Pay them more, train them better I don't think we need the government here.
posted by srw12 at 1:37 PM on October 25, 2001

thank lordy he had no howitzer. still couldnt fire the govment ffical. just reass-sighn
posted by clavdivs at 1:52 PM on October 25, 2001

to be nit-picky, Southwest isn't in charge of the metal detectors, the airport is, so it has nothing to do with which airline they were on, in my opinion.

I don't think that's the case -- that's why the director of aviation at MSY said, "The airport will be working with Southwest Airlines and the FAA to find ways to improve the process."

Individual airlines are responsible for providing their own security, and they contract out with companies who can provide (choose one): a.) the best security b.) the cheapest service that meets minimum guidelines.

I've heard reports of security standards at an individual airport varying widely from terminal to terminal. The wait at the checkpoint to get into Terminal A is over 2 hours, but the wait at Terminal B is only 15 minutes because different criteria are being used by the different contractors doing the checks. Don't feel like having your bag searched thoroughly? Shop around, you're sure to find a check station where they aren't nearly as strict. Then you get to ride one of those cool people mover things from that terminal back to your gate, too!

A story like this would have blown me away before Sept. 11, but the fact that it just happened goes to show that nothing substantive has been done to improve airline security. It's all just been for show — money and politics continue to come before "homeland security."
posted by barkingmoose at 2:08 PM on October 25, 2001

As if having government employees sitting there is going to automatically raise the intelligence the amount of effort Joe Q X-ray puts into his job. Pay them more, train them better I don't think we need the government here.

First, doing just about anything would automatically improve airport gate security.

Second, how do you propose to "pay them more" or "train them better" if a private company is still responsible? Detailed federal laws governing training and salaries? How exactly is this a victory for small government?

Third, believe it or not, the government has advantages that private companies do not. Surveillance and foreign intelligence powers, for example, that cannot be granted to or easily shared with private contractors. Also - immunity from most lawsuits. The government can be more aggressive than a private contractor in all aspects of security, because it need not fear a massive class action lawsuit.

Finally -- what do you mean "we don't need government here?" Where? We don't need government in issues of domestic security? Even hard core libertarians believe in the "watchman state" where the role of the government is limited to provided security. If protection from foreign terrorists bent on killing Americans on planes isn't a "watchman" function, I don't know what is.
posted by Mid at 2:46 PM on October 25, 2001

You know, if the guy with the gun was smart, he wouldn't have said anything. Can you imagine the panic that could have occurred when he pulled out the gun to give to the flight attendant? Or as the flight attendant carried it to the cockpit? It would have been much wiser to leave the gun where it was -- in the briefcase, under the seat in front of him.
posted by me3dia at 3:06 PM on October 25, 2001

barkingmoose, is that correct? Do airlines pick the security firms? I could swear the airport authorities handle that. The security firms certainly are private (read: cheaper).
posted by mmarcos at 3:12 PM on October 25, 2001

I'm just glad the FBI didn't arrest the guy, in this day and age people just don't look out for each other anymore.
posted by ryryslider at 4:03 PM on October 25, 2001

Yeah, I'm surprised he's not in jail. He must have done some smooth talking when the FBI interviewed him.
posted by Potsy at 4:18 PM on October 25, 2001

New Orleans airport security is the biggest joke I have ever seen. People just walk through unmanned detectors all the time.
posted by outsider at 4:26 PM on October 25, 2001

During the Atlanta Olympics in 1996, I was flying back to Charleston a couple days after the bomb went off in Centennial Park. I inadvertently went through security at Hartsfield with a loaded clip of 9 mm hollowpoints in my computer bag, and that airport was the closest I had seen to a military occupied zone up to now (due to the uncertainty from a couple days earlier). Granted, a clip isn't going to do much on its own. But after I unpacked and found the clip, I never again thought airport security here in the States was suffering from an Excess of Competency.

And this guy had a really big pair to pull this gun out and hand it to a flight attendant given what's happened. I agree that I think I would be more prone to hunker down and feign innocence if caught.
posted by ebarker at 5:47 PM on October 25, 2001

Oh, yes, the private sector has served airport security so well. When it was up to the individual airlines, they sought the best shareholder value, not the highest customer safety. I suppose one could argue that the interest of the latter inevitably supports the former, looking at the stock prices of airlines that had passengers killed, but that's somewhat disingenous, given their past history. We knew Argenbright was among the worst; and we knew Logan was among the least secure; both long before September 11. Yet nothing was done for years and years as the airline lobby gave Congress pushback and money. That is so not something we can permit in the future.

In other words, the private sector fucked up. Fire the private sector.
posted by dhartung at 11:53 PM on October 25, 2001

I carry a Spyderco Delica Lightweight in my pocket every day.

Less than two weeks ago, flying from O'Hare to LAX, I forgot I had the damn thing in my pocket. A bonehead move on my part, for sure, but after a five hour drive to ORD, it just slipped my mind. I shudder to think what would have happened to me if the metal detector had beeped. Army soldiers in full fatigues and sporting machine guns were everywhere, no doubt itching for some ass to kick. But I walked through the security checkpoint without a hitch.

Later, as I was sitting on the plane next to my girlfriend, she remarked, "I don't mind all the extra security, as long as it makes things safer." Just then, I reached into my pocket for a stick of gum, and low and behold, I felt the familiar handle of my knife. I realized immediately that I had done something very stupid, but I wasn't about to draw attention to myself by making it an issue. Which makes me wonder... why did the guy even bother turning it over to the flight crew? It's not like you have to go through security to get off the plane.
posted by David Dark at 1:19 AM on October 26, 2001

Don't pull out a reporter's notebook on Southwest Airlines, or a camera at LAX, according to freelancer R. V. Scheide (via Romanesko's Media News).
posted by Carol Anne at 9:37 AM on October 26, 2001

I can not believe that this man did not spend time in jail. I am sure that it is against some law to bring a gun on a plane without the proper papers. If it isn't, then it needs to be. There is absolutely no reason on earth that anyone would need a gun on an airplane. Just the fact that he had no criminal intent does not mean that he should not be arrested.

I have no criminal intent when I edge over the speed limit.

I have no criminal intent when I smoke a joint.

I can't see not having a criminal intent making a piss of different in those cases.

I fly frequently, and have made about seven trips since the 11th. Before I got on any plane I double checked all my bags to make sure that I wasn't carrying any knives (I had traveled with one on my key chain) or anything else that shouldn't be on a plane. I expect that everyone else would offer me the same courtesy. When someone else does something as irresponsible as bring a gun or a large knife (Mr. Dark) on the plane I want them to spend time in jail. I don't care if they had no criminal intent. That is not the point. The point is that there are some rules that should not be broken, and if they are, even innocently, there should be a punishment.

I bet the guy was white too.
posted by DragonBoy at 10:28 AM on October 26, 2001

DragonBoy, exactly how much time in jail do you think I deserve for my "crime" (which, BTW, was perfectly legal six weeks ago)? A day? A month? A year? How long do you think I need to sit in a cage to learn the valuable lesson of not forgetting what's in my pocket?

Keep in mind, I didn't hijack the plane. The flight arrived safely at LAX. The knife was in my pocket, and there it stayed.

The point of this thread is airport security continuing to fail in spite of heightened awareness and addictional restrictions, not why the guy with the gun wasn't thrown in prison. All that accomplishes is taking away a tax-payer and making him a tax burden.

And what color is your skin?
posted by David Dark at 10:56 AM on October 26, 2001

The guy who forgot about his gun probably wasn't arrested because:

1. He voluntarily notified authorities and surrendered his weapon, which is not a hallmark of a bona fide terrorist;
2. The FBI's background history didn't turn up any red flags (he isn't on any "bad peoples" list);
3. These incidents are actually extremely useful to law enforcement and the public, insofar as they highlight areas where security is dangerously lax without anyone actually getting hurt. (I'd have to think twice before flying out of New Orleans anytime soon.) The FBI almost certainly doesn't want to discourage other people in the same situation from coming forward and letting them know about such security holes. That way, they can be closed before they're exploited.

Generally, the theory behind imprisoning someone is that it's justified, if a) the person deserves it, or b) the world is made a safer place. Neither seems true, in this case.

Carol Anne: Great link. Frontpage-worthy, surely.
posted by skoosh at 3:03 PM on October 26, 2001

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