"You have to balance customer service with security," he said. "You can have the best security in the world, but if no one flies any more, what's the point? There has to be an element of (asking yourself,) 'Is this item being carried as a weapon?'
Getting all up in arms over a pocketknife could distract from the overall mission, Baroco said.
"Do you want screeners spending a lot of time dealing with that little pair of scissors in a toiletry kit," Baroco said, "or focused on looking for the components to a bomb?"
Federal air regulations prohibit passengers from carrying on "weapons, explosives, incendiaries and items that are seemingly harmless but may be used as weapons." Some items, such as guns and knives, can be transported, providing your airline allows them and guidelines are followed.
Firearms (including air/pellet/BB guns, gun parts, starter pistols and realistic-looking toys and replicas.)
Scissors with metal tips.
Knives (of any length.)
Razor-type blades (excluding safety razors.)
Bows and arrows.
Axes or hatchets.
Tools (including, but not limited to, wrenches, pliers and screwdrivers.)
Any explosives (including fireworks and realistic replicas of explosives, such as a toy hand grenade.)
Flare guns and flares.
Strike-anywhere matches (up to four books of safety matches are allowed as carry-on, but all matches are prohibited in checked baggage.)
Most chemicals (including bleach and spray paint.)
Aerosol (except for toiletries in limited quantities).
Eyeglass repair tools.
Umbrellas and walking canes (will be checked for concealed items.)
Check with your airline before travel to see if guns and ammunition are allowed as checked items, and if any additional limitations or fees apply. Firearms carried as checked baggage must be declared at check-in. They must be unloaded and packed in a locked, hard-sided gun case. Ammunition must likewise be securely packed in a fiber, wood or metal box or other packaging specifically designed to carry small amounts of ammunition.
The bin of prohibited items forfeited by passengers boarding flights at the Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport is often overflowing with hundreds of pocket knives, razors, scissors and any other variety of sharp-and-pointy or club-like items.
Some items are just, well, strange. Examples: a large, empty high-capacity rifle ammunition clip, a long barbecue fork or a military trenching shovel. Recent contributions to the box include a couple of cast-iron frying pans and a huge belt buckle embossed with a naked woman - not a problem - but also covered with long, sharp steel spikes.
Airport spokesman Ken Spirito said: "You should see how many steak knives we've gotten. At one point, one of the casinos was giving out sets of steak knives as a promotion, and people were trying to carry them on. We got so many sets, we started taking them back to the casino, and asked if maybe they could try some other promotion."
Pat Baroco, head of federal security at the airport, was hard-pressed to cite the strangest item he's seen, but he admitted his shock tolerance has increased over the past few years.
"We've had two or three swords-in-a-cane," Baroco said. "And the inert hand grenades, we've had a couple of those and they cause some excitement. They've told us, 'It's hollowed out, I didn't think there was anything wrong with it. I bought it for a paperweight.'
Copyright 2005 Associated Press