Know The Enemy: The Box Cutter

With all the handwringing about Nathaniel Heatwole and his “hide the box cutter” stunt which has left him facing ten years in Federal prison for pointing out the folly that is the TSA and its passenger searches, I think it’s time to inject a little perspective into the anti-box cutter hysteria. I understand they were used in the hijackings on September 11, 2001, but it was a different world then. People expected that hijackers wanted to fly to Cuba, or wanted some political hostages released, or some ransom money. People did not know then that doing what a hijacker wanted was certain death, too.

Otherwise, no one would be hijacked by someone wielding one of these:

A box cutter compared to a 6" ruler.

Not exactly a machete, now, is it? This is your garden variety box cutter favored by retail stockers and warehousemen everywhere. Note the less-than-shiny razor blade with almost a whole half inch of cutting surface exposed. This is not a piercing or stabbing weapon, folks. This is a little slasher, and it’s got far less than an inch of penetration power. No bad man is going to stick you in the heart or lungs with it, and it’s probably not enough to cut through your stomach wall if you’ve done any extra situps recently or have been eating a lot of fast food. Keep it away from your neck and you should be okay if someone pulls one in a fight. Granted, I’d rather be the guy with a case cutter if one of the two of us in the fight has one, but it’s not instant death, and it’s not even that intimidating.

Even if the bad guy pulls the razor out, he’s only exposing 1.5 inches of slashing blade, and it’s a hell of a lot harder to hold:

A box cutter disassembled, with razor out.

Of course, maybe when the press describes box cutter it means a utility knife. Utility knives come in all shapes and sizes, but they’re all designed to have a small, sharp cutting surface but also to be safe for people to handle. As a result, they don’t make that effective of a weapon, especially if you’re a terrorist with a plane full of resisting people.

So we, the people, know that the measures that strip grandmothers of their pinking shears and businessmen of their nail clippers are mostly cosmetic. That the TSA is making a show of security all the while telling us to please be quiet so that the TSA can fool the bad men into thinking the planes are secure. By taking away some of the most effective makeshift weapons available. This effort inconveniences air travellers and probably doesn’t even phase the bad men. It also could lead to prosecution of innocent people who make a small mistake.

When I was working in retail, the box cutter just became a part of the gear I carry in my jeans pockets. After each work day, I dumped it onto the dresser with my wallet, keys, and change. Every morning, including some upon which I did not work, I picked the gear up and put it into my pockets. If I were to do that today, on a day whereupon I was to catch a plane, don’t doubt the TSA would make an example of me.

So let this be a series of lessons to you. Our TSA is creating, for its own benefit, an illusion of security by isolating innocuous items and hoping against all hope that the terrorists continue to use things TSA screeners are looking for and that the terrorists are foolish enough to get caught with them. The TSA will ruin countless innocent American (not that Heatwole’s innocent, mind you) lives to make its point, which is not worth much.

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