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You'd think people know not to bring grenades to the airport, but you'd be wrong

Posted by Kevin Hartnett June 30, 2014 12:56 PM

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If you fly often enough, you'll inevitably run afoul of the Transportation Security Administration: maybe it's a belt buckle that sets off a metal detector, or a container of contact lens solution a few ounces too big, or a pocketknife you forgot to detach from your keychain. It turns out, however, that lots of people fail their security screens in far more spectacular fashion.

Last week the official blog of the TSA ran a surprisingly scintillating post detailing the alarmingly wide range of weapons confiscated at airport security checkpoints in the last week. The list includes brass knuckles, stun guns, ammo, inert grenades, spent artillery shells, "a lot of sharp pointy things," and a small militia's-worth of handguns. Among the most frequently confiscated weapons were so-called "credit card knives," lethal looking things that fold down to the size of your AmEx card and can be tucked neatly into a wallet. TSA agents seized 61 of them last week, and the blog post suggests people are carrying them more often (either that or agents are just now getting better at finding them).

There's no suggestion that any of these weapons were intended for in-flight use, which is both reassuring and disturbing: If people are coming so heavily armed to the airport- literally (or at least hopefully) the most secure place most of us ever visit, with widely publicized prohibitions against anything even remotely resembling a weapon- what the heck are they carrying around with them on a day-to-day basis?

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Images courtesy of the Transportation Security Administration.

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About brainiac Brainiac is the daily blog of the Globe's Sunday Ideas section, covering news and delights from the worlds of art, science, literature, history, design, and more. You can follow us on Twitter @GlobeIdeas.
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Brainiac blogger Kevin Hartnett is a writer in Columbia, South Carolina. He can be reached here.

Leon Neyfakh is the staff writer for Ideas. Amanda Katz is the deputy Ideas editor. Stephen Heuser is the Ideas editor.

Guest blogger Simon Waxman is Managing Editor of Boston Review and has written for WBUR, Alternet, McSweeney's, Jacobin, and others.

Guest blogger Elizabeth Manus is a writer living in New York City. She has been a book review editor at the Boston Phoenix, and a columnist for The New York Observer and Metro.

Guest blogger Sarah Laskow is a freelance writer and editor in New York City. She edits Smithsonian's SmartNews blog and has contributed to Salon, Good, The American Prospect, Bloomberg News, and other publications.

Guest blogger Joshua Glenn is a Boston-based writer, publisher, and freelance semiotician. He was the original Brainiac blogger, and is currently editor of the blog HiLobrow, publisher of a series of Radium Age science fiction novels, and co-author/co-editor of several books, including the story collection "Significant Objects" and the kids' field guide to life "Unbored."

Guest blogger Ruth Graham is a freelance journalist in New Hampshire, and a frequent Ideas contributor. She is a former features editor for the New York Sun, and has written for publications including Slate and the Wall Street Journal.

Joshua Rothman is a graduate student and Teaching Fellow in the Harvard English department, and an Instructor in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. He teaches novels and political writing.

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