In the dozen years since the United States was attacked by terrorists using commercial airliners as weapons, many prudent and effective steps to ensure such attacks would not happen again were put into place.
Unfortunately, not every step to curb hijacking planes has been essential to the goal. Some were simply knee-jerk overreaction driven by the emotional response to the horrors of the 9/11 attacks. It’s human nature.
But now some of that initial overreaction is finally being throttled back. It’s a positive move.
The Transportation Security Administration, in response to frequent complaints from travelers that the government is not using common sense when screening passengers, has started to infuse reason in tweaking polices.
Not long ago the TSA put in place a program at some airports that gives eligible travelers the option to volunteer personal information for a background check. If the check come back clean, those travelers can zip through security without having to remove their shoes and belt.
It was progress — albeit slow progress.
Last week another step in that direction was taken. TSA Administrator John S. Pistole said small knives, souvenir baseball bats, golf clubs and other swingable sports equipment would be allowed onto planes starting April 25.
Labor unions representing airline workers were quick to protest, saying that relaxing carry-on rules disregards the safety of airline passengers and workers. The concern is not the cockpit but the cabin and unruly passengers.
The TSA offered a reason response.
“TSA’s primary mission is to stop a terrorist from bringing down an airplane,” whereas traveler safety is a “tangential or residual benefit of the things we do,” said TSA spokesman David Castelveter.
Air passengers, even with the potential of tiny knives or a putter on board, are far safer from attack than any other form of transportation.
A lot of American motorists carry guns. Road rage involving a gun is a far greater danger than a disagreement between a flight attendant and passenger who has a club, bat or racquet (stored in a overhead compartment).
Sky marshals could be on the plane to offer help. If not, others on the plane — flight attendants and passengers — would probably step in to take away a Louisville Slugger from an out-of-control passenger.
The TSA still has room to get rid of more silliness from the air travel rules, but what’s happened so should be appreciated by passengers. Flying is still very safe and going through airport security is just a little bit saner.