The filmmaker Sean Malone, when traveling through LAX recently, had a belt buckle confiscated by the Transportation Security Administration. The buckle was silver and shaped like the ray gun used by the comic/game/TV character Flash Gordon. (It was "my favorite belt buckle," Malone notes.) TSA agents, having noticed the buckle during a bag check, pulled Malone aside to ask him about the gun-shaped metal thing they'd seen packed among his other belongings. He explained that it was a belt buckle. They were, understandably, confused. On the one hand, the object in Malone's bag was not an actual gun. On the other hand, it was designed to look, pretty much, like an actual gun.

As one TSA agent pointed out to Malone, something doesn't have to be a weapon to wield the power of a weapon.

Serving as a screener at airports's TSA checkpoints is unenviable work in several respects—all those cranky passengers, all those X-rays, all those bare feet—but one of them is the simple fact that people bring weird things onto airplanes. Or, they try to. At this time of year, in particular, it seems. Around Halloween, some travelers travel with costumes. Those costumes sometimes involve fake weapons—Princess Leia's rifle-esque blaster, Michelangelo's nunchucks, etc. And, as seen through an X-ray machine, even a squirt gun can look a lot like a real gun.

Which is why the TSA blog recently released some guidelines for travelers who plan on traveling with costumes. "If you plan on traveling with your costume this year," Bob Burns, wrote,

keep in mind that realistic replica items and props such as guns, scythes, pitch forks, chainsaws, butcher knives, grenades, axes, bombs, swords, machetes, and other realistic weapons are prohibited from being transported in your carry-on bags.

Most replica weapons can be transported in your checked baggage, but it’s never okay to pack anything that looks like (to include but not limited to) explosives such as grenades, land mines, rocket launchers, shells, and bombs. Even if it’s a replica, anything resembling an explosive is treated as the real deal until the explosives experts can prove otherwise, which often leads to delayed flights or baggage.

These prohibitions are why Sean Malone had trouble in LAX, even with his comic book-inspired belt buckle. As TSA agents told him, Malone remembers, "it's policy to reject all replica weapons" in carry-ons. So if your own Halloween plans involve both air travel and a Sexy Princess Leia costume ... plan accordingly.

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