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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