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Some uncomfortable with new rule allowing pocket knives on planes

March 18, 2013|By CALEB CALHOUN | caleb.calhoun@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN — Clarence Witmer Jr. of Greencastle, Pa., will fly from Baltimore-Washington International Airport to Oklahoma City this week.

The new rule allowing pocket knives in carry-on luggage on commercial flights will not yet have gone into effect, but the prospect makes him uncomfortable, he said.

“Small pocket knives could do serious damage,” Witmer, 82, said. “I’d rather they keep it like it is.”

He was not alone.

Opposition to the new rule was unanimous among 12 area residents who spoke with The Herald-Mail on Friday.

Mark Holloway of Hagerstown described it as “absolutely ridiculous,” saying that it will lead to more confusion because when people get ready to go through security at the airport, “they’re going to have knives, they’re not going to know, ‘Well is this one going to go through? Is that one not going to go through?’”

The Transportation Security Administration earlier this month announced that small knives would be allowed in carry-on luggage if the blade is no more than 6 centimeters long and no more than half an inch wide, effective April 25.

The decision sparked controversy and a backlash from individuals and organizations throughout the country.

One of the organizations campaigning against the decision is The Flight Attendants Union Coalition, which is supported by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, according to its website.

Tom Krause, Secretary-Treasurer of Teamsters Local Union 992 in Hagerstown, said that support for the campaign will show “solidarity among unions in respect to safety.”

“The fact is as a passenger that gets on airplanes, you want the peace of mind to know that somebody’s not going to pull out a knife,” he said. “Even if you’re not a member of a union, it’d be a scary thought knowing people can get on planes with a knife. Safety has got to be paramount.”

An attempt to speak with Hagerstown Regional Airport Director Phil Ridenour about the announcement was unsuccessful. County protocol requires reporters to get permission from Assistant County Administrator Sarah Sprecher to speak to most county employees.

Asked in an email for permission to speak to Ridenour, Sprecher replied in an email: “connect with the TSA agent on site.”

A second email to Sprecher asked if we had her permission to speak with Ridenour.

Sprecher’s reply: “Please refer to the TSA. We are not involved.”

A TSA worker at the airport said any comments on the matter had to be handled by the TSA’s public affairs office in Baltimore. Attempts to reach the office were unsuccessful.

Other area residents did not hide the fact they don’t like the change.

Scott Wheeler, 45, of Frederick, Md., said that there is no reason to have small knives on a plane.

“I would not want to be sitting next to someone on a plane who could potentially have a knife on them,” he said. “There are so many bizarre rules for airplane flight, now to allow pocket knives, I’m not sure if they’ve really thought it through.”

Mary Ann Jones of Hagerstown said the decision is “asking for trouble.”

“I think they ought to leave things the way they are right now,” Jones, 63, said. “I don’t mind waiting in line going through security to be safe.”

Mike Boring of Wolfsville, Md., said that a knife is still a weapon and referred to the weapons used in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in 2001.

“What’s the difference between a pocket knife and a box cutter?” Boring, 60, said.

Marsha Arnold of Hagerstown also mentioned the box cutters used in the Sept. 11 attacks. “If they were able to take three planes down with box cutters, they could do it with pocket knives,” she said.

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