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TSA's small-knife policy sparks bipartisan outrage

At a time when the partisan divide in Congress grows ever wider, it seems there’s one thing legislators can agree on: They’re dead-set against TSA’s temporarily postponed plan to let passengers carry small knives on board airplanes.

On Wednesday, a bipartisan group of 145 members of the House of Representatives sent a letter to the TSA commending them for delaying the rule and asking that the agency not allow it to go into effect.

Believing that allowing knives would create “unnecessary risk for the traveling public and those who serve them,” the signees closed the letter by saying, “We urge you to keep the rule simple: No knives on planes. Thank you.”

The move comes on the same day that four Democratic senators — Chuck Schumer, Frank Lautenberg, Robert Menendez and Kirsten Gillibrand — introduced legislation that would prevent TSA from putting the policy into effect.

“The TSA’s dangerous new policy will put passengers, flight attendants and pilots at risk and we must reverse it to make sure our airplanes are secure,” said Schumer in a statement. “Knives should continue to be kept off passenger planes and this legislation will make sure of that, once and for all.”

The letter and legislation represent the latest salvos in a war of words that erupted after TSA Administrator John Pistole announced on March 28 that the agency would have allowed small knives and blades to be carried on board for the first time since terrorists used box cutters as part of the 9/11 terror attacks.

The proposed policy would allow passengers to carry knives with blades smaller than 2.36 inches, along with other previously prohibited items, including ski poles, hockey sticks and small souvenir bats. According to Pistole, removing such items from the agency’s Prohibited Items List would free up screeners to focus on larger, more dangerous threats.

The policy was to go into effect on April 25 but was postponed in the face of blistering opposition from several organizations representing pilots, flight attendants, air marshals and families of 9/11 victims. Several of the above have joined forces to threaten legal action if the rule is subsequently implemented.

Which could conceivably happen as TSA officials have said only that they’ve postponed the rule while it undergoes further review. The agency has given no indication of when it might revive the proposal but The San Francisco Examiner quotes industry observers as saying it could be quietly re-implemented as soon as Memorial Day weekend.

Whether or not that happens, you should probably leave that pocketknife at home with your hammer, nunchucks and economy-size bottles of shampoo.

Rob Lovitt is a longtime travel writer who still believes the journey is as important as the destination. Follow him on Twitter.