TSA airport screeners stop teen with handgun design on pocketbook

posted at 12:45 pm on December 2, 2011 by Howard Portnoy

With Christmas approaching, it is reassuring to see that the Transportation Security Administration is stepping up its vigilance. Anyone attempting to pass through airport security carrying a weapon will be stopped. There will be no exceptions—not even when the weapon is merely a design on an item of apparel.

Seventeen-year-old Vanessa Gibbs learned this ridiculous lesson the hard way when screeners at Norfolk International Airport flagged her clutch because of its “arresting” style, which includes a relief replica of a small pistol.

Gibbs was headed home to Jacksonville following a holiday trip when the incident occurred. She explained to agents that the gun was not real, but they told her she would have to check the bag or lose it. As she told a Jacksonville TV station:

She was like, ‘This is a federal offense because it’s in the shape of a gun.’ I’m like, ‘But it’s a design on a purse. How is it a federal offense?’

As it turns out, the TSA has the law on its side in this case. A rule passed by the agency in 2002 strictly prohibits passengers from bringing “realistic replicas of firearms” on board an aircraft.

But if that’s the case, then why did the TSA screeners at Jacksonville International Airport fail to flag the clutch on the outbound leg of her trip? Inconsistencies like this suggest the training of checkpoint agents is still spotty, which should give anyone pause, not least of all the ironcically named TSA chief, John Pistole.

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A revolver? Semi-autos are the only way to go.

pseudonominus on December 2, 2011 at 12:48 PM

It is not a realistic replica. If a non-insane person looked at that purse they would see a purse not a gun.

GardenGnome on December 2, 2011 at 12:49 PM

I, for one, feel much safer knowing that they are extra, super, duper vigilant. You can’t be too careful when dealing with guns. One never knows when a pocketbook bas relief will explode without warning killing everyone on board a plane. You don’t want to be on the first flight to have that happen, do you?

Lily on December 2, 2011 at 12:51 PM

“Realistic Replicas of firearms”….for reference see the zero tolerance tyrants at public schools about student drawings.

anuts on December 2, 2011 at 12:51 PM

A realistic replica?

reaganaut on December 2, 2011 at 12:51 PM

Common sense isn’t so common…

Fallon on December 2, 2011 at 12:51 PM

Once again TSA rightfully earns the title The Stupid Agency.

paulsur on December 2, 2011 at 12:52 PM

But if that’s the case, then why did the TSA screeners at Jacksonville International Airport fail to flag the clutch on the outbound leg of her trip? Inconsistencies like this suggest the training of checkpoint agents is still spotty, which should give anyone pause, not least of all the ironcically named TSA chief, John Pistole.

Absolute nonsense. Any sane minded individual would consider a replica to be anything that could actually be mistaken for the real thing. And if this can be considered a violation (I say it would get laughed out of court), what about DVD covers that often have characters in a movie posing with weapons?

NotCoach on December 2, 2011 at 12:53 PM

The TSA just confiscated a Christmas gift for my daughter because there was liquid in it.

John the Libertarian on December 2, 2011 at 12:53 PM

Oh, that’s a replica of the Smith and Wesson Bilbo Baggins edition, the new trendy .07 caliber.

reaganaut on December 2, 2011 at 12:54 PM

As it turns out, the TSA has the law on its side in this case. A rule passed by the agency in 2002 strictly prohibits passengers from bringing “realistic replicas of firearms” on board an aircraft.

OK, so the point is, wait, what?

yubley on December 2, 2011 at 12:54 PM

Vver the Turkey Day break, I took a Pfaff sewing machine – encased in bubble-wrap – stored in a military flight-bag through security at DIA. Two TSA agents asked me what the object was (before and during the scan). I told them that it was a german sewing machine that I was taking as my carry-on because my grandmother didnt trust the machine to be shipped via UPS/FedEx (mostly true).

Thankfully, none of the TSA agents deemed necessary to open the flight-bag and remain the layers of bubble-wrap to verify my story. Although, coincidentally, my two checked bags were examined by the TSA and some plastic tubs with toll paints were opened (as evidenced by the layers of tape wrapped around the storage cases and TSA flyer stating my bags had been searched).

…then there was that time my bag was checked at security and the TSA agent found about three-dozen ceramic pears…

Jeddite on December 2, 2011 at 12:54 PM

The rules are not designed to protect us. They are designed to harass us whenever any petty tyrant bureaucrat decides he doesn’t like our looks.

rbj on December 2, 2011 at 12:56 PM

The TSA just confiscated a Christmas gift for my daughter because there was liquid in it.

John the Libertarian on December 2, 2011 at 12:53 PM

Wow

Who is Jon Galt Huntsman? on December 2, 2011 at 1:00 PM

All of you had better be careful! Obama’s SS will pay you a visit soon for criticizing the totally inept TSA.

Oops. Now I’m gonna get a visit too!

Sporty1946 on December 2, 2011 at 1:01 PM

BULLSHIT!

“Replica”? A FLAT pistol is a “replica”?

Only to an idiot from the TSA.

And this crap will continue until people finally get fed up and vote with their feet.

GarandFan on December 2, 2011 at 1:01 PM

The TSA is essentially useless, except as a means to federally employ the terminally stupid. I hate flying now and only do it if I absolutely must.

CantCureStupid on December 2, 2011 at 1:03 PM

What’s next? Colouring Books with pictures of Guns?

Yes, Colouring… might as well live up to our Europeanization

Kini on December 2, 2011 at 1:05 PM

A rule passed by the agency in 2002 strictly prohibits passengers from bringing “realistic replicas of firearms” on board an aircraft.

“A rule passed by the agency” In other words, they are a law unto themselves. This is why government agencies were ideas formed in the pit of hell. They pass laws that congress never would get away with. And congress then gets to throw up its collective hand and say “nothing we can do.. it’s the agency.”

Second… define “realistic replica.” It’s a relief made of, I guess, leather or vinyl on a purse. A terrorist could grab that purse, I guess, and try to seize control of the plane. Hey, it’s possible. They could also grab a turkey sandwich and try the same thing and have about as much success.

JellyToast on December 2, 2011 at 1:05 PM

Because they want to be that obvious.

Ben Hur on December 2, 2011 at 1:05 PM

I’m gonna cut them some slack on this one. There is a rumor circulating that weapons purchased illegaly in the U.S. have mysteriously made their way to the drug cartels in Mexico, are being used to hunt BP agents, and have actually murdered at least two. I don’t blame the TSA for being careful.

a capella on December 2, 2011 at 1:07 PM

As it turns out, the TSA has the law on its side in this case. A rule passed by the agency in 2002 strictly prohibits passengers from bringing “realistic replicas of firearms” on board an aircraft.

First, a rule isn’t the same thing as “the law.” It is an implementation of the law, but implementations can be out of bounds (lacking statutory authority or be unconstitutional) just as much as the law itself can run afoul of higher law.

Second, how is this a “realistic replica of a firearm.” It is a design on a purse. That is neither “realistic” nor a “replica” of a firearm. The rule is clearly targeted at toy guns that look like real guns (and thus could be used as a stand-in for a real gun in a hijack attempt). Would TSA simillarly not let a passenger on board with a Duke Nuke-em T-shirt on (the depictions of guns on that shirt would look more real than this replica)? What about a hand drawing of a gun (again, would look more ‘realistic’ than this design)?

I don’t believe that the TSA has either the law or the rule on their side. This was clearly out-of-bounds, and they should apologize to the girl. D.GOOCH

DGOOCH on December 2, 2011 at 1:07 PM

Hey even a toy soldier holding a gun is fair game with these idjiots

Kini on December 2, 2011 at 1:08 PM

OK, I voted for him, but I’m hard pressed to think of anything Bush did that was worse than approve the creation of the TSA.

Over50 on December 2, 2011 at 1:13 PM

How aoubt a Mohamed turban bomb pic on the purse?

Or Obama-clown cartoon?

Or any non-PC style whatever?

Sir Napsalot on December 2, 2011 at 1:16 PM

it is a PURSE. Anyone who sees anything other than that is a fat, stupid ignorant Gubmint drone being paid to feel up 12 year old girls and collect an obscene pension after 25 years…..

can you say TSA?

SDarchitect on December 2, 2011 at 1:19 PM

The Islamification of the TSA.

Pretty soon women will be forced to cover their breasts for fear that a man might rape her and cause a ruckus on a flight.

csdeven on December 2, 2011 at 1:19 PM

Oh, that’s a replica of the Smith and Wesson Bilbo Baggins edition, the new trendy .07 caliber.

reaganaut on December 2, 2011 at 12:54 PM

Hahahaha! That big huh?

csdeven on December 2, 2011 at 1:21 PM

The purse gun. I think I saw that on reruns of “Get Smart”.

vcferlita on December 2, 2011 at 1:25 PM

A revolver? Semi-autos are the only way to go.

pseudonominus on December 2, 2011 at 12:48 PM

I loves me my semi’s, but revolvers are more reliable. Try out a Ruger GP100 in .357 sometime. Sweet.

‘///////= -
//’)
//

“Bang!”

Uh-oh. Am I in trouble now?

iurockhead on December 2, 2011 at 1:26 PM

When my son came home from $hitholestan on his mid tour leave, he had two 7.62 cal rounds in his pocket. He made it all the way home with nary a peep from the TSA. Military uniform or no, they should have caught that one.

csdeven on December 2, 2011 at 1:26 PM

So if you are in uniform and you have a device with a firearm on it, like a MP’s crossed pistols, does that mean you can’t board?

sheesh

SPCOlympics on December 2, 2011 at 1:28 PM

strictly prohibits passengers from bringing “realistic replicas of firearms” on board an aircraft.

LMAO

A photograph of a fire-arm is more realistic than the purse design.

Should we check all magazines and videos to be sure their are no photos or video of real guns?

TSA employs those who couldn’t hold a job working a cash-register or pushing a broom. It truly is the employer of the mentally deficient.

Tim_CA on December 2, 2011 at 1:29 PM

Wait,

a rule passed by the agency

…..

Now we get to have gubmint agencies making their own rules?

Why the H*LL do we need Congress and pay them then?

Sir Napsalot on December 2, 2011 at 1:29 PM

I don’t know how intense this being stopped was, but in fairness, I have seen belt buckles that looked like decorative bas relief but were actually tiny removable, functioning pistols. So a closer look here would not be unreasonable.

paul1149 on December 2, 2011 at 1:30 PM

When my son came home from $hitholestan on his mid tour leave, he had two 7.62 cal rounds in his pocket.
csdeven on December 2, 2011 at 1:26 PM

May I have them please. Ammo is very expenisve now.

pseudonominus on December 2, 2011 at 1:34 PM

Stupidity reigns in the TSA.

sadatoni on December 2, 2011 at 1:36 PM

After agents figured out the gun was a fake, Gibbs said, TSA told her to check the bag or turn it over.

They figured that out all on their own did they..?

NeoKong on December 2, 2011 at 1:37 PM

Hmmm. What if she had made a gun out of her hand. More realistic than a stupid purse . . .

BigAlSouth on December 2, 2011 at 1:42 PM

I think Jenna Marbles puts it best.

A little NSFW language, really hot blonde.

Mazztek on December 2, 2011 at 1:50 PM

Hmmm. What if she had made a gun out of her hand. More realistic than a stupid purse . . .

BigAlSouth on December 2, 2011 at 1:42 PM

Better yet, what if she stuck it in her pocket?

csdeven on December 2, 2011 at 1:55 PM

TSA has the law on its side in this case. A rule passed by the agency in 2002 strictly prohibits passengers from bringing “realistic replicas of firearms” on board an aircraft.

Little did the legislators who wrote the law know, but to satisfy the stringent IQ requirements of TSA agents, the law should have been written “3-D realistic replicas of firearms.”

So a guy wearing this tie, goes to board a plane. It appears he will be told, “I’m sorry sir, you’ll have to gate-check that tie. We no longer allow musical instruments on board.”

Sheeeesh!

smellthecoffee on December 2, 2011 at 1:59 PM

Did anyone else’s impression of the story change after reading she was a pregnant teen?

the pregnant teen missed her flight

Venar on December 2, 2011 at 2:02 PM

Who the hell is running TSA, Maxwell Smart?

Gang-of-One on December 2, 2011 at 2:09 PM

Howard, if you’re going to write things like “As it turns out, the TSA has the law on its side in this case” to justify their actions in associating an embossed design with a realistic replica of a handgun, I recommend you find a new line of work. This one doesn’t seen to suit you very well.

RMCS_USN on December 2, 2011 at 2:12 PM

Someone may have felt threatened by it.

roy_batty on December 2, 2011 at 2:13 PM

Replica – An exact copy or model of something, esp. one on a smaller scale.

Emphasis mine.

TSA does not use brains. They are using replicas.

TexAz on December 2, 2011 at 2:19 PM

realistic replicas of firearms

Uh… a design on a purse is not a replica. If you have a drawing of a gun is that wrong too? What about that iPhone App that makes a lightsaber or shotgun???

jeffn21 on December 2, 2011 at 2:19 PM

Who the hell is running TSA, Maxwell Smart?

Gang-of-One on December 2, 2011 at 2:09 PM

This one has more of a “Three Stooges” feel to it.

Hey Moe….it’s a purse gun!

nyuck nyuck

Tim_CA on December 2, 2011 at 2:20 PM

I wonder what they would say to a Vet who was wearing his Combat Infantryman Pin?

Oh, I forgot, they refused to allow an MOH recipient to board wearing his medal.

We’ve gone from “Minetta’s Morons”, to “Ridge’s Retards”, to “Pistole’s Putz’s”!

Another Drew on December 2, 2011 at 2:25 PM

After agents figured out the gun was a fake, Gibbs said, TSA told her to check the bag or turn it over.

So once they figured out she couldn’t shoot them with a leather bag… wait.

How long did that take exactly? How long did they ponder the possibility that her leather purse could fire bullets at them? Is the length of time required to determine that a “leather revolver” isn’t dangerous what made her miss the flight?

How about a chocolate teakettle? Good idea TSA? Is that a functional concept? I’ll give you a week to ponder it; and ironically the TSA has a similarity with a chocolate teakettle in the “usefulness’ department.

Go ahead, go make a leather revolver… I’ll stand behind this brick wall when you try to fire it the first time.

gekkobear on December 2, 2011 at 2:27 PM

in fairness, I have seen belt buckles that looked like decorative bas relief but were actually tiny removable, functioning pistols. So a closer look here would not be unreasonable.

paul1149 on December 2, 2011 at 1:30 PM

Ok, give me 3 seconds. If I can bend the leather making up the “barrel” of the gun proving it’s leather… we’re done here; right?

I’m guessing the one-shot belt buckle guns are metal; have a solid barrel, and probably careful rifling and size requirements for their ammunition (and I’d still consider that a risky shot; but worth the risk in some situations).

I can’t see this taking much of a “closer look”. Once you find out it’s leather I’d call it resolved; unless gun manufacture has gone in for pliable/flexible materials.

gekkobear on December 2, 2011 at 2:32 PM

gekkobear on December 2, 2011 at 2:27 PM

I bet it could be done. You just have to use a very light load in your ammunition. Is it required to have any penetrating power?

NotCoach on December 2, 2011 at 2:34 PM

Well guess we know where those out of work teachers are landing at.

Just A Grunt on December 2, 2011 at 2:34 PM

I hate flying now and only do it if I absolutely must.

CantCureStupid on December 2, 2011 at 1:03 PM

Me too.I refuse to fly now.
Except now I gotta do it in May to VA on a Friday for a wedding. I’d drive, but I hafta be back home by that Monday.
SIGH
Maybe I should wear a shirt with a picture of a gun on it.

Badger40 on December 2, 2011 at 2:37 PM

As it turns out, the TSA has the law on its side in this case.

Not exactly. They have one of their own rules on their side. I learned a long time ago that there’s a big difference between rules, regulations, and law. Rules and regulations allow, by their very nature, for exceptions. Laws do not. There is no law forbidding art work on airplanaes.

Longhorn Six on December 2, 2011 at 2:49 PM

As it turns out, the TSA has the law on its side in this case. A rule passed by the agency in 2002 strictly prohibits passengers from bringing “realistic replicas of firearms” on board an aircraft.

Umm, no, no they don’t. First, this is not a law, it was a rule passed by The Stupid Agency as others have pointed out. Secondly, and more importantly, this was a leather relief representation of a firearm, not a realistic replica of a firearm. The difference is that if someone were to pull a realistic replica of a firearm out of their purse (or other location) on an aircraft and attempt to intimidate passengers, some passengers might be convinced that they were being threatened by a real firearm. If this girl pulled her pocketbook with the embossed revolver and attempted to threaten the passengers, everyone would think she was crazy and in need of help.

That is no more a realistic replica of a firearm than the pictures in my Gun Digest magazine and is no more a threat than my magazine. A sane gate screener with two functioning brain cells would know the difference. Unfortunately, TSA agents appear to possess neither of those two characteristics, thus we get stupid stories like this.

AZfederalist on December 2, 2011 at 2:51 PM

A revolver? Semi-autos are the only way to go.

pseudonominus on December 2, 2011 at 12:48 PM

I loves me my semi’s, but revolvers are more reliable. Try out a Ruger GP100 in .357 sometime. Sweet.

‘///////= -
//’)
//

“Bang!”

Uh-oh. Am I in trouble now?

iurockhead on December 2, 2011 at 1:26 PM

I prefer 1911, but many experts recommend compact snub-nose revolver for CCW.

peski on December 2, 2011 at 2:51 PM

This gal is just lucky she wasn’t carrying a paper napkin from McDonalds, or she would have been arrested by the Obamacrats’ IRS Health Care Police!!!

landlines on December 2, 2011 at 3:15 PM

By their definition of a replica, a book containing pictures of guns would be considered a realistic replica and could be confiscated.

taznar on December 2, 2011 at 3:17 PM

In Soviet America, purse aims gun at you.

The Mega Independent on December 2, 2011 at 3:18 PM

A rule passed by the agency in 2002 strictly prohibits passengers from bringing “realistic replicas of firearms” on board an aircraft.

A rule passed by the agency?!!!! Who the hell is the TSA answerable to then, themselves and they only? Has anyone in this lunatic outfit sat down, look at that ruling and actually thought out the meaning of the word “replica”, or are they too busy harassing passengers and making them the enemy, never mind the terrorists?

The TSA is no longer what it was supposed to be! It is now a maverick out of control bunch of jackboot stormtroopers who seem to believe they are a law onto themselves and the hell with the rights of the passengers who are only trying to get from Point A to Point B!

Why the hell Congress has not just shut these idiots down and turned airport security back over to the airports is a mystery to me!

pilamaye on December 2, 2011 at 3:23 PM

What tattoos that depict some form of weaponry?

Dagger through the heart or military veterans with M16 or grenade tattoos?

This is typical govt work.

BobMbx on December 2, 2011 at 3:32 PM

Is it a drawing of a gun, or is it a plastic gun on the purse? I’ve looked at the picture and it looks like its a plastic gun stuck on the purse….

KMC1 on December 2, 2011 at 4:03 PM

In Soviet America, purse aims gun at you.

The Mega Independent on December 2, 2011 at 3:18 PM

Hahahah!!! Oh man! You really got me to crack up with that one!

KMC1 on December 2, 2011 at 4:05 PM

Unfortunately, TSA agents appear to possess neither of those two characteristics, thus we get stupid stories like this.

AZfederalist on December 2, 2011 at 2:51 PM

Interviewees who possses those characteristics are over qualified, and shown the door, blacklisted from TSA employment.

“We don’t want people that can think….we want people who will do”

BobMbx on December 2, 2011 at 4:16 PM

On behalf of all current and former Arizonans, I apologize from the bottom of my heart for Janet Napolitano.

psrch on December 2, 2011 at 4:19 PM

I see TSA still thinks it is in the competition to prove itself even less competent than BATF.

pat on December 2, 2011 at 4:24 PM

This one has more of a “Three Stooges” feel to it.

Hey Moe….it’s a purse gun!

nyuck nyuck

Tim_CA on December 2, 2011 at 2:20 PM

Crackin’ me up as I type!

Gang-of-One on December 2, 2011 at 4:31 PM

The illusion of security at the cost of freedom.

We are shockingly blessed with enemies who are, on the whole, incompetent. Because this [censored] wouldn’t stop them.

Merovign on December 2, 2011 at 5:18 PM

As it turns out, the TSA has the law on its side in this case. A rule passed by the agency in 2002 strictly prohibits passengers from bringing “realistic replicas of firearms” on board an aircraft.

The key word being “realistic”.

ynot4tony2 on December 2, 2011 at 6:23 PM

The illusion of security at the cost of freedom.

We are shockingly blessed with enemies who are, on the whole, incompetent. Because this [censored] wouldn’t stop them.

Merovign on December 2, 2011 at 5:18 PM

Agreed.

A serious human being would run a finger over it, bend it, toss it under a light, hand it back and say thank you ma’am, have a nice flight.

Axe on December 2, 2011 at 8:51 PM

A rule passed by the agency in 2002 strictly prohibits passengers from bringing “realistic replicas of firearms” on board an aircraft.

Sounds like someone doesn’t grasp what a “realistic replica of a firearm” is. Hint: an embossed design on a leather purse does not qualify.

didymus on December 3, 2011 at 1:28 AM

What are you smoking Howard? That’s a purse. A realistic replica would be a gun. A gun design on a purse is not a replica. She can’t hold up a convenience store with her purse. You can hold up a convenience store with a realistic replica.

mizflame98 on December 3, 2011 at 1:38 AM

GarandFan,

My sentiments exactly. These damned idiots only know how to harass and steal from airline passengers. This is the reason why I won’t fly with any luggage. I’ll ship my clothes and other items. I wouldn’t trust those @$$holes with an outhouse.

hamradio on December 3, 2011 at 2:37 AM

Could be worse. On an x-ray machine these things look like pipe bombs.

Fortunately, last time I flew with those, I ran into a screener who could actually think, and could tell from looking at it, that it was a musical instrument and not a bomb. That was years ago.

Voyager on December 3, 2011 at 12:29 PM

Vanessa appears to be white. I wonder what the ethnicity of the TSA agent is.

The thought begins to occur that being a TSA agent is a wonderful opportunity for otherwise unemployable black people to “stick it to the man” under the cloak of national security, with absolutely no concerns about retribution for hate speech or behavior.

NahnCee on December 3, 2011 at 1:00 PM