Seventeen-year-old Vanessa Gibbs’ purse drew more attention than she bargained for this week, when its metal-embossed design in the shape of a gun was deemed a “federal offense” by TSA employees at the airport in Norfolk, Va.
“She was like, ‘This is a federal offense because it’s in the shape of a gun,’” Gibbs told WJXT-TV4 in Jacksonville, Fla. “I’m like, ‘But it’s a design on a purse. How is it a federal offense?’”
Gibbs carries the purse nearly every day, and it failed to provoke the attentions of TSA inspectors on the outgoing leg of her trip from Jacksonville to Norfolk, but eagle-eyed security attendants were quick to spot the handbag on her return trip.
Agents eventually realized that the three-inch gun design was not in fact a real weapon, but they told her to check the bag or hand it over anyway. The pregnant Gibbs missed her flight and had to be rerouted through Orlando.
The TSA contends that the gun-shaped purse design was not permitted on board an aircraft because “replica weapons have been prohibited since 2002.” Still, extending the definition to hollow, metal-embossed purse designs extends this authority to heretofore-unseen lengths.
WJXT reported that Gibbs and her mother “said it’s hard to believe anyone could mistake the design on the purse for a real gun because it’s just a few inches in size and it’s hollow, not to mention Vanessa has taken it on planes before.”
“Common sense,” Gibbs added. “It’s a purse, not a weapon.”
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