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Gun-themed purse delays teen flier

By Katia Hetter, Special to CNN
updated 6:04 PM EST, Fri December 2, 2011
A purse with a gun replica on it was flagged by the Transportation Security Administration at the Norfolk, Virginia airport.
A purse with a gun replica on it was flagged by the Transportation Security Administration at the Norfolk, Virginia airport.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Teen's gun-themed purse gets flagged by TSA
  • Apparel featuring gun replicas may fall on prohibited items list
  • "A design on a purse. How is that a federal offense?" teen asks

(CNN) -- Flying fashionistas with a thing for the Second Amendment may want to leave their gun-themed purses and other paraphernalia at home, lest they be flagged as a security risk and miss their flights.

As she was flying home after the recent holiday weekend, Virginia Gibbs' gun-themed purse was flagged as a security risk by Transportation Security Administration officials at the Norfolk, Virginia, airport.

While Gibbs told CNN affiliate News 4 JAX that she's carried the purse on many flights, the 17-year-old says she was told that the purse "was a federal offense because it's in the shape of a gun. I'm like, 'a design on a purse. How is it a federal offense?' "

Purses or belts with gun emblems can fall under a TSA prohibition on replica weapons because they could be mistaken for a real weapon in the X-ray machine or by a fellow passenger.

"Security checkpoints may be impacted or closed because replica weapons like toy guns, novelty grenades, fake bombs and other items appear similar to the real thing when viewed through an X-ray machine," TSA spokesman Greg Soule said. "Checkpoint closures cause significant delays, which can be avoided if passengers don't bring these items to the airport."

By the time TSA officials figured out that the purse was a fake, offering Gibbs the opportunity to give up the purse or check it, Gibbs had missed her flight and was placed on another to Orlando. Her frantic mother drove from Jacksonville to Orlando to pick her daughter up.

Gibbs arrived at security 20 minutes before her flight was due to depart, which may have caused her to miss her flight, according to a security official.

The TSA says it's investigating her allegation that the purse has made it through airport security before.

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