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Travel is kind of a pain in the ass, nowadays. In America (the largest developed nation without reliable, efficient passenger train service) you’ve got three choices – automobile, bus, and airplane. And for all it’s speed, convenience, and relative low-cost, flying has gotten to be the biggest pain of all, thanks to the legacy of the late, un-lamented Osama Bin Laden. I’m all for our government trying to make air travel safe(r). But I just wish they’d find a way to do it without either making me feel LESS safe, or giving me a headache from all the convoluted logic they use to do their job. Case in point, my trip home from the NRA confab…

I don’t fly with my gun. Perhaps if I was lucky/wealthy enough to own a “travel gun” or one cheap enough that wouldn’t make me go nuts if it were stolen from my luggage, I’d fly with one. But if there’s a downside to being a 1911 fanboy, and replacement cost is it. So I make do with a tactical knife, tactical flashlight, and a tactical pen. Of the three of these, two have to go into checked luggage, making them bloody well useless on board the plane. (I do carry a smaller, less intimidating flashlight in my carry-on, just in case.) A knife is right out. I even check my fingernail clippers, due to the, shall we say inconsistent way that the TSA enforces their rules. Not to mention the way those rules keep changing, seemingly daily. That leaves me with a pen. Now any relatively well-made pen can be used as a Yawara stick. It needs to be something that won’t break, and be long enough to protrude from your hand to make contact with a jugular vein or trachea. But if you want something that can do a little more damage, you need a pen with a point.

There are plenty of tactical pens out there. But I’m wary of spending $100+ on a writing implement, only to find it going buh-bye at security. So whilst I was at the show, I brought up this topic with the head honcho at the Timberline booth, as he had a tacpen that looked pretty wicked. (See above.) His answer? No problemo.

He said that he carries that same pen with him every time he flies (and he flies a lot). He’s only been questioned on it once, and after demonstrating that it was a working pen, he was allowed to go through with it. Having seen the memo that the TSA was on the lookout for anything marketed as “tactical,” I found that a little hard to believe. And I said so. The man put his money where his mouth is, and gave me a pen to try for myself. I figured that going through airport security at Pittsburgh’s Carnegie airport would be a pretty fair test – after all, it was the last day of the NRA show, and I’m sure they were on “heightened security” due to the perception of the firearms-related protests, et cetera.

So I stuck it in my pocket and got in line. Now going through the security line is no small feat for me. Even though I do this a lot, it’s still a production number that would make Busby Berkeley proud – remove the laptop and iPad from the backpack, put them in trays. Empty my pockets of all metal. Remove my belt and cell phone case. Take off my shoes. Woof. So the pen went into the bin with all my other crap. And came out, unchallenged and unscathed, on the other side. (!) Now this bad boy looks intimidating. And they did nothing. Nada. Nyet. Bupkis. On the other hand, the one time I forgot an inert cartridge fob on my keychain (it has my name engraved on the casing, and an eye-hook screwed into it where the primer goes), you’d think I was trying to smuggle nuclear secrets to the Kremlin. Where’s the consistency?

I get that they want to keep us safe. But backscatter X-Rays are not the ticket. Neither is screening and X-Raying my worldly possessions. Nope. I do have the answer, though. All they need to do is to outfit the planes with cameras in the passenger compartment and monitors in the crew cabin, make the door into the cabin airtight, and outfit the planes with a gas delivery system that will allow the crew to instantly knock everybody in the plane out, and make them go sleepy-bye until they can land. Put ’em all to sleep and let the cops on the ground sort it out.

My other favorite idea for air travel is what I like to call “Naked Airlines.” You’d get to security and be issued a robe and a transparent Ziploc bag. You’d put your clothes in the bag, and tag it. You’d get them back on the other end. Now of course, flying with just a bathrobe on will change things. There’d be no first class and coach. It would be the poor and ugly in the back (as a consolation, they’d get to board first). The rich and beautiful would get the nice seats up front. When you land, you reverse the process, and get your clothing back. For an extra service fee, you’d get to keep the robe.

I guess in my dream world, we wouldn’t need this kind of security. I get why they don’t let guns on the plane for passengers. (Although I think the crews should be armed to the teeth, and trained to know how to use their guns.) But for the rest of it, blocking pens, small knives and fingernail clippers is just stupid. If you’re gonna go that far, you’ll have to start banning certain people from the flight. I have an ex that can kill with a sharp look. Do that, and we’re back to profiling again. And we know THAT will never fly.

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  1. There does not seem to be much middle ground on this issue.

    A) Strip search everyone (and go naked, well, OK bathrobe).
    B) Knockout gas and airtight cockpits.
    C) Allow as many armed citizens as possible, even going so far as to declaring CCW holders when booking so that a minimum of 10% of the passenger list on any one airplane are armed.

    While I am partial to the naked option (I was a drunken sailor after all), this is the first time I had thought gas might be a real possibility. But you can only do that if each passenger consents in writing that they will not sue if any harm comes from it (asthma, infections, whatever).

    The third option seems like a possibility, but who wants the liability of potentially 30-40 passengers shooting at one or two bad guys in an airplane? There are other people to be concerned about, Air Marshall, hitting the pilot, holes in the structure. Do we then require Glazer safety cartridges for each passenger’s weapon.

    I don’t know, the lawyers in this country have seem to screw it up with all the litigation. Oh, wait, aren’t you a law school graduate? 🙂 Belay my last!

  2. How about this: Issue sheathed bowie knives to all adult, consenting passengers. A knife is easy to use, familiar and uncomplicated, won’t blow holes in the fuselage, and it’s easy to tell if the safety’s on.

    • The only problem – if the BG gets one too, then they can take a hostage at knife point and the other passengers, without some intestinal fortitude, would have a difficult time disarming them. A gun gives you distance, assuming shot-making ability and can certainly prevent more than one death (other than the BG’s) from a distance. A knife fight is much more of a skill in a lot of respects than a gun.

  3. I have the NRA version of this pen and it’s pretty cool. I took it to work today and everyone was afraid to touch it (I’m known to have shocking devices at my desk and no one touches my stuff i.e. shocking calculator, stapler, marker, pen, lighter, candy jar, tape measure, utlility knife, deck of cards). I’m going to take this pen with me when I fly to the states that require me to show up in person or take a class there in order to get my non resident permit.

  4. Hey Brad,

    Want to give it another whirl in the “security heightened” post-bin-Deaden day that it now is? I’ll be flying out of Washington, D.C. on Sunday bound for Arizona. If you want to drop that baby in the mail I’ll gladly sport it in my left breast pocket as I pass through security a scant mile from the seats of power in Washington.. (with other .. “toys” .. heheh)..

    I promise; I’ll send it back (insert devious grin here).

  5. I don’t leave anything to chance. I made homemade collage posters using goofy clip art images of guns, explosives, acids, etc and in big letters “LEAVE AT HOME”
    I put them on the inside of my apartment door about two to three weeks before I fly.
    Since they’re so silly, I notice and smile every time I leave to go somewhere, but it reinforces the message to re-scrutinize my bags, keyrings and pockets for anything that even looks like a weapon.
    So far, so good. I go through security very quickly and haven’t had to say goodbye to a favorite pocket knife, keyring totem or pen that does a bit more than write…

  6. As I mentioned in the previous post on tactical pens, I have always traveled with a carbide tip scribing tool in my briefcase. Blends right in with other pens and mechanical pencils and it’s never been scrutinized. Get one at any good tool supply.

  7. Knockout gas sounds good, but anesthesia is a fine and deadly art – how much gas knocks someone out and how much kills them is a very small difference indeed. The amount that will knock out a plane of average size adults would kill any children / babies that were along for the ride certainly and smaller people as well, including the elderly and infirm. Just ask the Russians about the Nord-Ost siege – same idea, but 1/8th+ of the hostages were killed by the gas along with the terrorists. Whoops.

    And this is why anesthesiologists are paid by the boatload.

    Naked passengers is something I’d pay to avoid seeing really. Just make sure at least five of the passengers are federal air marshals with guns, and your problem is solved.

    • As long as they segregate all the ugly passengers into a holding pen, I’m good with the bathrobe thing. (Imagine the ads. “Hi…I’m Heather. Fly me!”) The air marshals idea is outstanding. Let’s take the entire budget they’ve allocated for those stupid backscanning radar machines and put it towards beefing up the air marshall ranks.

      I’m just waiting for the first class-action lawsuit, filed by TSA employees who’ve contracted cancer and claim exposure to the machines is to blame. Wait for it. It’s coming.

  8. Mr. Kozak, Et Alii:

    I continue to believe that everybody, both passengers and crew, should have the option of wearing loaded firearms on their person when flying on a commercial airliner – – – and also, everyplace else, at all times.

    First of all, the right to self preservation is an unalienable right, a right we are born with, a right given to us by our Almighty God.

    Since it is an unalienable right, it was not given to us by the Second Amendment, but instead, our divinely inspired Constitution of the United States of America guarantees our unalienable right by restricting the power and authority of government.

    At least, that’s what was intended from the beginning.

    But, as we all now recognize, it’s going to take a bodaciously bloody civil war to restore our inherent rights as individual citizens – – – and that’s only if we win.

    If we should lose – – – ?

    Federal air marshals are armed, and some pilots are armed, so logically, there must be ammunition that can be safely used on an airliner by ordinary passengers.

    This is just a wild guess, but aren’t military and/or diplomatic couriers armed when travelling?

    Further, modern aircraft are designed to survive bullet holes in their fuselage, and/or even more catastrophic damage, and still continue to fly safely.

    Only a week or two ago, there was a news report of some commercial jet airliner that suffered a very large hole in the fuselage, due to metal fatigue, and that plane safely changed course, continued flying to its alternate emergency destination, and safely landed, with no casualties.

    Similar events have previously occurred, due to metal fatigue or poor maintenance, and fatalities, if any, were minimal.

    Remember the stewardess who was sucked out of that airliner over the Pacific Ocean when the entire top of the aircraft broke away, somewhat like a can of tunafish being opened?

    I think she was the only one killed, but the plane was able to continue flying, and safely landed in Hawaii.

    That was many years ago, and in case you weren’t yet born when that happened, Hollywood made a movie about it, although I don’t remember the title.

    Wasn’t it just over a week ago when some airline pilot discovered a bullet hole in the fuselage as he was inspecting the aircraft after a flight?

    I’ve forgotten where or when that took place, but maybe you guys know the incident I’m referring to.

    Thank you.

    John Robert Mallernee
    Armed Forces Retirement Home
    Gulfport, Mississippi 39507

  9. Check this link for the best idea about passenger safety. WARNING: language is unsuitable for almost everyone.


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