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Pocketknives are prohibited in Michigan airports, but beginning next month the Transportation Security Administration says agents will allow them through security checkpoints anyway.
TSA recently announced that starting April 25, agents will permit travelers to carry on pocketknives with blades less than 2.36 inches long and less than half an inch wide. Souvenir baseball bats, golf clubs and other sports equipment also will be permitted.
But while TSA says pocketknives are acceptable, the state of Michigan disagrees.
TSA's decision was made to comply with international standards and to allow TSA to focus on more serious threats, administration spokesman David Castelveter said.
A Michigan law passed in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in 2001 prohibits people from carrying knives of any blade length in the secure area of an airport, punishable by up to one year in jail and a $1,000 fine. Similar laws have been put in place in California and Massachusetts, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Michigan's Attorney General's office said the ban will remain in effect, despite the TSA change. Joy Yearout, spokeswoman for Republican Attorney General Bill Schuette, pointed to TSA's guidance for travelers, which warns passengers that some items accepted by TSA are illegal in certain states and will be subject to state law.
But, TSA agents will not make travelers surrender pocketknives at the security checkpoint next month — even at Michigan airports, Castelveter said.
"The checkpoint is our jurisdiction. We still have the authority under federal law to allow these changes to go into effect." he said. However, passengers must be aware that Michigan authorities near the checkpoint could step in and say they are not allowed, he said.
Michael Conway, spokesman for the Detroit Metropolitan Airport, said airport police will continue to enforce the provision when violations come to their attention.
But since airport police do not screen passengers, the new TSA rule could mean Michigan passengers will carry pocketknives on airplanes, despite the state's ban.
"We do not frisk people who come through the front doors," Conway said. "The airport police would have little reason to interact with a passenger in a situation in which they would be asked to empty their pockets."