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Schumer calls proposed knife rules a distraction for TSA

By Steve Almasy, CNN
updated 8:56 AM EDT, Mon March 11, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Senator from New York says "now is not the time for reduced vigilance"
  • TSA will allow some pocketknives, sports equipment as of April 25
  • They were banned after September 11, 2001, attacks
  • Some airline officials also have called for reversal

(CNN) -- Sen. Charles Schumer, saying he sees few tangible benefits for passengers, called Sunday on the Transportation Security Administration to reverse its decision to allow small pocketknives on airplanes.

At an afternoon news conference in New York, Schumer said TSA agents would be distracted by having to measure knives and other items like baseball bats.

"These items are dangerous, and have not become less so in the years since they were banned from planes," the New York Democrat said. "Now is not the time for reduced vigilance, or to place additional burdens on TSA agents who should be looking for dangerous items."

During the news conference, Schumer held up a slender bladed object that he said would be allowed under the new rules. "It looks dangerous and it is dangerous. This can kill someone," he said.

A representative from Schumer's office later identified the object as a knife similar to ones made by office supply companies.

The TSA subsequently responded by saying that knife would not be allowed on flights under new regulations because the blade can be locked in place and because the blade appeared to be a razor blade, which remain banned from passenger airplanes.

Schumer's request on the TSA rule change came a day after U.S. Rep. Ed Markey also came out against the TSA's move.

This presentation outlines changes to the Transportation Security Administration's prohibited items list. Some small knives will be allowed in carry-on luggage starting in April. This presentation outlines changes to the Transportation Security Administration's prohibited items list. Some small knives will be allowed in carry-on luggage starting in April.
Knives allowed by TSA
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TSA rules on knives, sports equipment TSA rules on knives, sports equipment
Opposition to new TSA knives policy
McCain: I'm skeptical of TSA decision
Critics up in arms over TSA knife policy
TSA to allow small knives on planes

In a letter to TSA Administrator John Pistole, the Massachusetts Democrat expressed concern about the new policy and asked it be reversed.

"The attacks on September 11, 2001, demonstrated that in the confined environment of an airplane, even a small blade in the hands of a terrorist can lead to disaster," wrote Markey, who is running for the U.S. Senate seat recently vacated by John Kerry.

"In addition, the additional responsibility of assessing which knives meet the new requirements could be a distraction for already overburdened screeners at TSA checkpoints, potentially leading to increased wait times and decreased security."

Knives on a plane? Really?

Under the rules outlined this week, knives with blades no longer than 2.36 inches (6 centimeters) and less than a half-inch wide will be allowed in airline cabins as long as the blade is retractable and does not lock into place. Razorblades and box cutters are still prohibited.

The rules also allow a passenger to carry two golf clubs, toy bats or other sports sticks -- such as ski poles, hockey sticks, lacrosse sticks and pool cues -- aboard in carry-on luggage.

Pistole said the move brings the United States into alignment with international rules and is in keeping with his "risk-based security" approach.

Kip Hawley, who oversaw the TSA from 2005 to 2009, said the search for knives interferes with the search for objects such as bombs and toxins that can threaten aircraft.

Ex-TSA chief backs decision

But others have sharply criticized the change, which takes effect April 25.

They include the Flight Attendants Union Coalition, a nearly 90,000-member group that has launched a campaign to reverse the TSA's decision. The policy is also opposed by the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, a union representing more than 26,000 officers from 65 agencies.

Delta Air Lines CEO Richard Anderson said Friday he shares the same "legitimate concerns" as his flight attendants.

Delta CEO opposed to allowing small knives on aircraft

"If the purpose is to increase security checkpoint flow, there are much more effective steps we can take together to streamline the security checkpoints with risk-based screening mechanisms," he wrote in a letter to Pistole.

CNN's Jordana Ossad and Greg Botelho contributed to this story

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