Well, it's the holiday season, and Americans are taking to the highways, rails, and airspace of our great land to reconnect with friends and loved ones. This ushers in another, less fortunate, and increasingly common tradition: tales of security screening excess regarding anything even remotely gun-like. Civil aviation is still relatively safe and functional in this country, and for that, we are grateful. But when the screening process goes wrong ... boy does it go wrong.
According to a local report, a Redmond, Wash., woman was en route to Seattle via St. Louis on December 3rd when she and a traveling companion, Rooster Monkburn, had the misfortune of being detained by a TSA Agent in St. Louis. Rooster Monkburn, we hasten to add, is an ornery-looking cuss. Like the John Wayne character that inspired his name, he sports a cowboy hat, eye patch, no-nonsense cowboy boots, and yes, even a holstered six-shooter. It's probably safe to assume in this case that he also has an itchy trigger finger. Is it any wonder a vigilant TSA agent detained this duo and threatened to call the police?
Well, yes, actually. For you see, Rooster Monkburn is a plush monkey doll made from a stuffed sock. And his gun was an itty, bitty little toy, some two inches long. The woman who was traveling with the cuddly little desperado has a small business making sock monkeys themed around characters from popular culture. Rooster Monkburn was inspired by Rooster Cogburn from the classic cowboy move, True Grit. Making the innocence of the situation even more obvious, his companion additionally had her monkey-making sewing supplies with her at the time. (These supplies were also temporarily confiscated.)
"This is a gun," the TSA agent reportedly accused the woman. No, the woman answered, "it's a prop for my monkey."
The hard-bitten TSA agent was not going to be so easily convinced. "If I held it up to your neck, you wouldn't know if it was real or not," she said. To which the woman replied, "Really?"
We'll let you judge for yourself. As far as we're concerned, however, Rooster Monkburn has a better chance of being mistaken for a real monkey than his sidearm has of being mistaken for a real gun. And yet, we're pretty sure live monkeys aren't allowed to be in the passenger compartment of commercial aircraft, either.
Yes, we understand. This is all just to keep America safe. Better to err on the side of caution, etc., etc.
Except we're not buying that. Americans are not safer for these sorts of hysterical, heavy-handed reactions to anything that is supposed to suggest the mere idea of a gun, even when it's only used in the context of a plush toy to illustrate an iconic American cowboy. Instead, they serve only to provoke cynicism, exasperation, lack of confidence, and wariness about the true motives that underlie some measures supposedly undertaken by the government "for your own safety."
Well, eventually the woman and her monkey were released and allowed to go on their way. Rooster Monkburn, however, had to make the rest of the trip unarmed. At least his companion kept her humor intact, "Rooster Monkburn has been disarmed," she told a reporter, "so I'm sure everyone on the plane was safe."
We're not so sure, frankly. The sad saga of Rooster Monkburn should serve as a lesson to all of how absurd things can get when overzealous "security" officials monkey around with freedom and common sense.