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.