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Editorial: Bad call by TSA on small knives

The head of the Transportation and Safety Administration is taking heat for his decision to allow passengers to carry small knives, hockey sticks and golf clubs onto airline flights. As well he should.

John Pistole told Congress last week that he was sorry about the way the decision was handled, but he’s sticking to it. In our opinion — and in the opinion of flight attendants, pilots associations, federal air marshals and many in the flying public — Pistole and the TSA are wrong. Airline passengers may grumble during the TSA screening, but most understand that it’s an effort to keep us safe in the not-always friendly skies.

Beginning April 25, the TSA will allow in an airline cabin knives that do not lock and have blades less than 2.36 inches long and less than half an inch wide. It will also allow sports gear, like hockey and lacrosse sticks, ski poles and two golf clubs.

The TSA argues this will let gate agents focus on high-threat items and will better conform with International Civil Aviation Organization standards. Why? If U.S. policies are stronger, good for us.

The size of the knife that will be allowed is the same as that used by terrorists who hijacked flights from Logan Airport Sept. 11, 2001, and flew them into the World Trade Center in New York, killing 3,000 people. While it is true that cockpits now have much sturdier, locked doors, a knife or golf club could cause serious injury and death in the tight confines of an airline cabin. And for what? Is the convenience of a few worth the risk? TSA agents will now be measuring knife blades and having to determine which meet the standards and which violate the rules. This will annoy passengers and only distract from the monitoring for high-risk items.

The new TSA policy conflicts with Massachusetts law that bars anyone from bringing a knife through airport security. At least three Massachusetts congressmen, Richard Neal of Springfield, Edward Markey and Stephen Lynch, have joined others in sponsoring a bill to halt the TSA policy change.

The policy change appears arbitrary and inconsistent with regulations that have air travelers taking off shoes, emptying water bottles and having oversized containers of shampoo, toothpaste and diaper rash cream confiscat ed. If there is a logic to this change that fits with a bigger security scheme, it has not been explained. Good policy makes sense, and this one doesn’t.

Seeking egg-hunt civility

We have no doubt that what transpired on the field at Easthampton’s Easter egg hunt last year was an aberration. The annual event that returns Saturday at 10 a.m. has become a beloved tradition over 20 years. Volunteers work for months stuffing plastic eggs with treats and surprises and then spreading them on a field so children can scoop them up in the thrill of the hunt — all in good fun.

The trouble last year involved a minority of over-involved parents who went on the field to help their children collect the goodies. Organizers ask adults to stay off the fields and watch from the sidelines, where they belong. About a dozen of them last year refused to follow those rules, joining their children in the “hunt.”

There are plenty of eggs to go around. We offer these tips for families heading to the Municipal Building, where this year’s egg hunt will play out in the parking lot. Remind your children (and yourselves) that there are plenty of eggs for everyone, and that the point is to have fun. Meanwhile, organizers have recruited more volunteers, and even enlisted help from police, to avoid a repeat of last year. We hope participants this year prove a police presence isn’t necessary after all, and let the children enjoy the fun.

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