For Want of A Knife — What We Don’t Know Can Kill Us

TSA&ArmyKnifeWhen TSA announced that knives with two inch blades would now be allowed on flights, I was giddy.  I am a life-long knife carrier.  My love affair with knives likely began with my grandfather, who was a truck-driver and amateur horse wrangler.  He always had a new knife, and one of my favorite childhood activities was pulling out the cedar box where he kept his treasures, then looking through each one, opening and closing blades under his watchful eye.  I still have the cedar box and many of the knives, worn with the years and colored by my grandfather’s sweaty, hard-working hands; may he rest in peace.

Of course, like me, he didn’t treat them to special safes or untouched, satin-lined cases.  He carried them.  They weren’t intimidating; they were tools.  And so they are to me.  A knife is useful for opening the assorted, insane plastic packaging in which everything is now sealed.  A can cut pieces of food, and help open plastic sealed drink bottles.  A knife can be used to trim fingernails or cut tangled thread.  In dire circumstances, a knife can be used in rescue, by cutting seat-belts or other restraints; it can also help remove restricting clothes around injuries.  A knife is a wonder of utility, whether the blade is tiny or large.  And for most purposes, I find a small knife to be especially useful.

But then, I’m a Southern male.  I’m not afraid of knives.  My sons, and daughter, have carried small pocket knives since they were small.  (My daughter’s pink knife lives in her assorted purses as the seasons change.)  Ever since TSA shut down knife carry I’ve felt just a little naked while traveling.  Packages still need to be opened, mind you.  Things still need to be cut.

Furthermore, when I fly, I want a knife for the same reason I wear solid shoes.  I don’t want to climb out of wreckage or over twisted metal in flip-flops.  And I don’t want to try to cut someone loose from some entanglement with my stubby fingernails and aging teeth.  Finally, knives can be used as weapons in a pinch. (I’ll take my .38 over my knife any day, but we use what we have at hand.)

The problem with the whole knife kerfuffle is that men, and some women, have carried knives for ages.  Whether stone, bone, shell or steel, we’ve been packing sharp things.  And now that TSA has recovered just a whiff of sanity, the progressives, flight attendants, airlines, progressive politicians and assorted anxiety-laden moderns have instantly freaked out over pointy, edgy tools.  But what they fail to realize is this:  before the monsters of 9-11, people carried knives on airplanes with impunity. Furthermore, before the modern era of terrorism, I’d bet (though it was probably never studied) that businessmen, military personal, fathers, mothers and traveling (off-duty) police officers even carried firearms onto airplanes with a fair amount of regularity.

But nothing happened.  No disasters caused by knives.  Relatively rare incidents caused by guns, mostly motivated by larger political or religious affiliations.  The number of weapons carried on airlines in the past is impossible to know.  While I can’t say it was high, nobody can say it was negligible either.

So let’s re-wind to the horrors of 9-11.  What if a bunch of burly guys on those airplanes had each had knives with 2, 3 or even (gasp!) 4 inch blades.  What if an Army Ranger on leave (heck, even a civic-minded Mafioso on his way to see the grand-kids) had been packing his 9mm in his carry-on?  What if both airplanes hadn’t been filled with people forced to travel like sheep with no shepherd?

Here’s what.  Maybe one, or all, of the terrorists would have been stopped from the get-go.  It’s one thing to butcher a flight attendant.  It’s quite another to do the same to armed men who are fighting for their lives.  We saw evidence when we learned the story of the heroic resistance of the unarmed passengers on Flight 93.

Maybe thousands of lives on the ground would have been saved.  Perhaps the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan wouldn’t have begun, with their attendant loss of life on both sides.  We would have seen that citizens can do the right thing without agents of the government to guide them.  And unimaginable amounts of tax money wouldn’t have been spent on onerous and ridiculous security rules and an entirely new federal agency.  As a bonus, we’d have less groping and radiation for our traveling citizens.

All I’m saying is this.  Let lawful citizens carry our little knives. You never know what benefits might accrue.  After all, for want of a knife, we might save a life.  And in the words of the left, ‘if it saves just one life, it’s worth it,’ right?

About the author: Edwin Leap

Edwin Leap, MD is an emergency physician and columnist. He lives in rural, Upstate South Carolina with his wife and four home-schooled children, and their various dogs and cats. He is a 1990 graduate of the West Virginia University School of Medicine and completed his residency at Methodist Hospital of Indiana in 1993. He is board certified in emergency medicine. Dr. Leap and his children are hobby blacksmiths, who love collecting swords, spears, knives and axes. His favorite firearms are the Ruger over and under shotgun his wife gave him for his birthday, the Ruger Mini-14 and Smith and Wesson .357 he received for Father's Day and his big, ugly Mosin Nagant rifle (also a gift from his darling wife). He and his family are members of College Street Baptist Church in Walhalla, SC where he is a deacon.

View all articles by Edwin Leap
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