Teen detained by TSA over design on purse

By David Ferguson
Saturday, December 3, 2011 17:56 EDT
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Vanessa Gibbs was stopped by the TSA for carrying a purse with a pistol design.
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A Florida teenager was detained by TSA officials because her clutch purse featured a tiny replica of an old western six-shooter pistol, according to Jacksonville’s Channel 4 News. The 17-year-old was returning from a holiday trip to Norfolk, Virginia when TSA officers held and questioned her, insisting that the inches-long, hollow, metal decoration posed a security threat.

Gibbs missed her flight home and was re-routed to Orlando, Florida by her carrier, Southwestern airlines. The unexpected change of plans alarmed the girl’s mother, Tami Gibbs, who was already waiting at the airport in Jacksoville. “I was terrified,” she says in the video at Channel 4′s website, “I was on the phone all the way to Orlando, trying to find out what was going on with her.”

The TSA officer in Norfolk told the teenager that she was guilty of a federal offense for attempting to carry the purse on to a plane. After inspecting the bag and finding that the tiny gun was, in fact, a fake, officials ordered Vanessa to check the purse as baggage or surrender it to them.

Channel 4 contacted the TSA, who stood by the Norfolk personnel’s decision, citing a 2002 ban on “replica weapons” on domestic and international flights. Vanessa Gibbs scoffs at the classification, citing “common sense”.

“It’s a purse,” she says, “Not a weapon.”

David Ferguson
David Ferguson
David Ferguson is an editor at Raw Story. He was previously writer and radio producer in Athens, Georgia, hosting two shows for Georgia Public Broadcasting and blogging at Firedoglake.com and elsewhere. He is currently working on a book.
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