Pistol pendant causes airport holdup

Marnina Norys toys with the gun pendant that a security guard at the Kelowna, B.C., airport forced her to remove and place in her checked luggage. (Ron Bull, Toronto Star)

Woman prohibited from taking Colt .45 trinket aboard plane because of its symbolic importance

May 30, 2008

Brett Popplewell

Staff Reporter

The Colt .45 hung cold around her neck, like a pendant.

Because it was a pendant.

On Monday, Marnina Norys, a 39-year-old PhD student of social political thought at York University, was forced to remove a piece of silver jewellery cast in the shape of an antique pistol by airport security in Kelowna, B.C., who feared the trinket posed a security risk to the passengers on her WestJet flight.

Approaching the security desk, Norys says she was stunned when guards labelled the 5-centimetre pendant, with no bullets or moving parts, a replica firearm.

“When the woman pointed at the pendant I had no idea what she was talking about,” said Norys, who was informed that replica firearms are banned from planes.

“They made me feel ashamed, as if I should have known that it was wrong to wear this type of jewellery.” Flustered, Norys stuffed the pendant into her carry-on, but was surprised when the guards opened her bag and analyzed the trinket as if it were an actual gun.

“I moved from shamed to irritated very quickly, because (the pendant) couldn’t do any damage to anybody,” she said.

Despite the trinket’s innocence, an unnamed security guard told Norys she’d have to check her jewellery in storage under the plane.

After checking the trinket and arriving back in Toronto, Norys told her friend and creator of the pendant, Calvin Dana Munroe of Toronto’s Bad Ass Jewellery, about the incident. “It’s absolutely absurd if you ask me,” said Munroe, 36.

“It was the applied symbolism that was the issue here. So what if I have guns on my T-shirt … or a gun tattooed on my neck? Is that going to make people uneasy?”

Norys has since received an apology from the Canadian Air Transport Authority (CATSA).

“The screening officer involved made a judgment call, rather than refer to CATSA’s standard operating procedures,” Dave Smith, director of screening operations with CATSA, wrote in a letter to Norys.

“In retrospect, your revolver-shaped pendant is not a threat and should have been allowed on board the aircraft.”

But Norys isn’t satisfied with the explanation and says the real issue is institutional.

“The problem wasn’t that she didn’t follow operating procedures,” she said.

“It’s that she didn’t use her judgment at all and she’s not allowed to use her judgment as an officer at the bottom of the line.

“I blame the system, not just her.”

http://www.thestar.com/article/433917

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