Jack Tame: High-flyers win the right to bear small arms

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What's Richard Prosser up to next month? I have an idea that may tickle his fancy.

Usually I'd recommend avoiding air travel in the US at any excruciating, time-wasting, soul-stripping cost. A brief spell in prison would quite often be preferable.

But springtime in the air above the US brings irresistible change, of which I think Mr Prosser will approve. After 13 years of deliberation and debate, the much-loved Transport Safety Administration will allow airline passengers to carry small pocket knives on planes for the first time.

They're very small pocket knives, mind you; a 6cm blade will be the largest allowed and swords will probably best remain stowed. And yet this meagre relaxation has been greeted by alarm from those who spend the most time in the air.

The Association of Flight Attendants and its 60,000 members said they "strongly opposed" the new regulation, and numerous airlines have been quick to agree.

By way of example, the 9/11 attacks demonstrated that power can be won and havoc soon produced by a handful of men with a few simple box-cutters.

But opponents to pocket knives on planes need merely look down mid-flight to see the same debate has already defeated them.

Right now, the US Congress is considering federal changes to gun laws. And the Second Amendment argument presented by gun reform opponents works just the same at 30,000ft. If a well-armed society, with machine guns and concealed pistols, truly ensures the greater safety of its citizens, then surely the same thing applies to a well-armed commercial plane. If every passenger on the 9/11 flight had been armed with a box cutter or pocket knife, maybe the Twin Towers would be standing today.

Perhaps then, the relaxations will be extended. Perhaps we'll soon be allowed more than thumb-sized pocket knives: an assortment of weaponry on planes.

Perhaps, even, the skies of America will follow the small town of Nelson, Georgia, where council representatives are preparing a new law requiring households to keep guns. We'd all have to pack heat for the red-eye. What could possibly go wrong?

A 6cm pocketknife sounds sensible. But if, for the sake of debate, you extrapolate the argument for a better armed, protective society, the reality of semi-automatics in the sky seems nothing short of a Steven Segal plot: pure, fantastic lunacy.

So too, though, do 30,000 gun deaths a year.

- Herald on Sunday

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