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Media Outlets Spread Fake News About TSA Seizing ‘Rocket-Propelled Grenade Launcher’

They're just helping the TSA push its scaremongering narrative.

Twitter/@TSAmedia_LisaFTwitter/@TSAmedia_LisaFDid you hear the scary news? The Transportation Security Administration seized a military-style rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) launcher at a Pennsylvania airport! Thanks goodness for the TSA's diligence, otherwise we might have had a Grand Theft Auto rampage-style situation on our hands!

Except, this news is not entirely true. One might even call it fake.

According to a TSA press release, a Florida man flying from Lehigh Valley International Airport to Orlando checked a bag containing "unassembled parts of a rocket propelled grenade launcher and grenade." It's not until midway through the release that the TSA notes "the device was not a functioning launcher and the grenade itself was determined to be a realistic replica." The TSA claims (incorrectly) that "no realistic or replica weapons" of any kind are allowed on planes, even if they're in checked luggage. In reality, firearms and ammunition are permitted, though RPG launchers are not.

A surprising number of outlets, no doubt looking for shock clicks, didn't include in their headlines the rather important fact that both the launcher and the grenade didn't work. "TSA stops man traveling with 'military rocket grenade launcher' in bag," claimed Fox News. "TSA confiscates parts of rocket-propelled grenade launcher at Pa. airport," said The Hill. According to ABC News: "TSA confiscates rocket-propelled grenade launcher at Pennsylvania airport."

The New York Daily News and New York Post's stories on the incident had similarly misleading headlines, as did a variety of local TV stations, including KDKA, KYW-TV, WESH, KMOV, KNSD, and WNEP. Each of these outlets did say in the text of their stories that the grenade launcher was non-functioning (meaning it couldn't actually hurt anyone). But that's more than just burying the lead. There's a huge difference between a working grenade launcher and a replica. The TSA misled news consumers, and so did most of the media outlets who picked up the story. (The Associated Press and USA Today did include sufficient information in their headlines, but they were the outliers.)

This is all part of the larger problem of outlets spreading falsehoods, which Reason's Robby Soave explored in detail on Tuesday. Unlike with Momo, "prayer rugs," and "Skittles parties," this instance is a bit more of a grey area. Sure, the TSA found "parts" of an RPG launcher, but if TSA agents concluded that the RPG was safe, why did the agency feel the need to promote the story?

Because it's sensational and kind of scary, and it creates the impression that the TSA is all that stands between you and me and a lunatic sneaking his rocket launcher onto a commercial flight. Yet just as is the case with this supposed rocket launcher, the TSA seems to be much better at confiscating plastic toys and bullet-shaped ice cubes than evaluating actual risk.

Photo Credit: Twitter/@TSAmedia_LisaF

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  • ||

    military-style rocket-propelled grenade

    OK, I can get that someone gets sloppy and describes a rifle as an assault rifle, or a military-style assault rifle. Especially since lots of manufacturers are striating their lines with 'For military and police', 'for civilians', and 'for CA/NY resident' lines.I think I'm actually one of the few pro-2A people who's pretty forgiving about it. But when you describe a grenade launcher, a device manufactured and purchased for and by the military almost exclusively by law as 'military-style', you're just being lazy. It's not like Raytheon has a pink or tartan civilian-style RPG and military-style black, OD green, and digital camo lines. There's just the one style and it's all military.

  • ||

    Pink/Tartan: Civilian line
    Black: Covert intelligence agency line
    OD Green: Military line
    Gold Plated: C. American drug lord line
    Slightly rusted with spattering of dried blood: Oppressed revolutionary line

  • Dillinger||

    Castor Troy's handguns were awesome.

  • Still Curmudgeoned (Nunya)||

    If they had a picatinny rail that makes it like military style assault grenade launcher.

  • mtrueman||

    This has a wooden stock, doesn't it? A tad more elegant than the utilitarian 'military style.' I would deem this grenade launcher acceptable accessory at a fox hunt or pheasant hunt.

  • ||

    I would deem this grenade launcher acceptable accessory at a fox hunt or pheasant hunt.

    An engraved M79 with gold inlay, maybe, but over-the-shoulder in OD green? You'd look like the veritable hobos who inhabit Army/Navy Surplus shops. How gauche.

  • Unicorn Abattoir||

    Military my eye. I can't be the only one who hunts deer with an RPG.

  • Tionico||

    but since a real rocket propelled grenade launcher falls easily within the definition of "arms" as used in the Bill of Rights, we SHOULD be able to own, transport, and use them. Right to arms shall not be infringed?

    But right, this little caper is just one more example of their Security Charade. No suprises here. And yet, if someone WERE determined, one could, with a bit of research, investigation, experimenting, bring aboard an undetectable item or set of items that could easily rip an airliner apart from the inside of the cabin.
    Whoever would have dreamt that an airliner key could look just like a cheap plastic box cutter?

  • ElvisIsReal||

    >but since a real rocket propelled grenade launcher falls easily within the definition of "arms" as used in the Bill of Rights, we SHOULD be able to own, transport, and use them. Right to arms shall not be infringed?

    For the most part you can, long as you pay the appropriate fees.

  • Enjoy Every Sandwich||

    LOL, I wonder if anybody is citing this story as "proof" we need to ban semi-automatic rifles.

  • Crusty Juggler||

    I heard the TSA stopped a white nationalist terrorist from driving a tank through JFK airport.

  • Freddy the Jerk||

    Your news sources were close, but it was actually an NAACP board member driving a 20-year old Saturn who got caught doing 25 MPH in the 10 MPH loading zone area.

  • Crusty Juggler||

    Racist.

  • Sigivald||

    Every time someone has an empty M-72 tube, it's "a rocket launcher".

    Sure, there's no rocket and they're not reloadable, but it's "a rocket launcher".

  • Tionico||

    I think it was Baltimre MD, last summer or fall, staged one of those faux "gun buyback" events. When they did the PR After Action Report, the most obvious "weapon" "taken off the streets" was an empty non-reusable shoulder-fired rocket launcher TUBE...... some guy prolly bought it for about two dollars fifty at a surplus store and the Balto PeeDee, per their sign, paid the guy a C note for it. Oh did they brag on and on about how they "took that DAYNJRUS piece of military grade hardware off the streets. The former owner likely laughed all the way to his local pawn or gun store now a C note richer tp purchase a good quality handgun to add to his collection.

    Ain't gummit smawrtt?

  • Ken Hagler||

    So this was an RPG launcher in the same sense that the TSA is a security agency.

  • Tionico||

    BOOM!!!!!

    nice one

  • Ron||

    So if a person puts a blow up doll in their luggage would that be classified as sex trafficking by the Media

  • some guy||

    Something needs to be capable of propelling a grenade with a rocket before you call it an RPG.

    The headlines should read "TSA robs history buff of elaborate toy."

  • ||

    As Sigivald points out, they got the 'launcher' part correct. There was no grenade nor rocket to propel the non-existent grenade. With those two things out of the way the only remaining piece is a simple metal tube. Maybe.

  • markm23||

    It was a single-use launcher that had been used. There are no reloads for it - each rocket comes with it's own launcher tube, and the tube is designed to only stand up to one firing. This is like reporting an empty beer can as "liquor".

  • Unicorn Abattoir||

    First hint that this was fake news - the TSA found it.

  • LiborCon||

    Are RPGs protected by the Second Amendment? They have a

    "reasonable relationship to the preservation or efficiency of a well regulated militia,"
    - U.S. v. Miller, 307 U.S. 174 (1939) at 178

    Plus you can keep and bear them.

  • Unicorn Abattoir||

    What we need here is a well-thought out, rational explanation from Hihn

  • Obama ate a dog||

    And a Unicorn.

  • Tionico||

    Yup. Weapons suitable for use by military, and able to be transported about and deployed by an individual acting alone.

    A tank COULD be, because the guy driving it might also be able to fire it once in a suitable position and he stops it to fire.
    but a nuclear submarine? Not so much.

  • LiborCon||

    Well…The purpose of the Second Amendment is to defend against a tyrannical government. And Swalwell wants to nuke gun owners, so a nuclear sub would come in handy.

  • Sometimes a Great Notion||

    Last month my drivers licenses expired right before a trip. TSA didn't say a word but the Denver bartenders, Jesus, what a bunch of Nazis I am pushing 40 and they wouldn't serve me. This was a real head scratcher to me because normally I curse the TSA and praise bartenders.

    *PS - Weed-tenders didn't notice, thank god.

  • LiborCon||

    I had the same problem. My license expired and the drone wouldn't sell me beer.

    I told him an expired license doesn't affect my age or identity. I'm still me and I'm still over 21.

  • ElvisIsReal||

    Only the government could proclaim your ID is no longer valid because of a completely arbitrary "expiration" date.

  • LarryA||

    It's a matter of incentive. If a bartender accepts an expired license from an alcohol police plant, the beverage license could be toast.

  • AD-RtR/OS!||

    TSA can't find 95% of test weapons, but finds a non-functional replica of an RPG, and a non-functioning, disassembled RPG launcher.
    How are they doing on "Wham o" sling-shots, and spare elastic bands?
    Why do we still have this useless, Kabuki-theatre agency?

  • Duke of url||

    I figured ex California senator and gun control proponent Leland Yee was paroled and back in business.

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