Ever wish a few more gun shots (as in pictures of guns) would pop up on your Instagram feed? Here’s a thought: Follow the Transportation Security Administration’s new account, which features the latest contraband captured by airport screeners across America.
That’s right, the prolific team behind the cheeky TSA Blog joined Instagram last week to shock you with pictures of weaponry that ill-informed or ill-intentioned travelers could have brought on board your flight -- that is, if TSA officers weren’t around to the save the day. While the agency created its blog in 2008 to “facilitate an ongoing dialogue on innovations in security, technology and the checkpoint screening process,” its Instagram account skews more toward shock and awe.
TSA tagged the inaugural June 28 post of colorful Fourth of July supplies: “#Fireworks don’t fly. (On planes).” Other filtered and framed highlights from this past week --including a stun gun disguised as a pack of Marlboro cigarettes and a knife hidden in a fake credit card -- appear straight out of a James Bond film. Instagrammers seeking more information on the confiscated items can check the weekly roundup on the TSA Blog, which also features tips on what not to say at the airport (including the latest example: “Take care of my bag, it might blow up”).
TSA joins other government bodies such as the White House and, more recently, the first lady with new Instagram feeds. Its popular account has already racked up nearly 40,000 followers in its 10 days in existence, perhaps due to its excessive use of the hashtag. Each of TSA’s 11 photos, meanwhile, has generated a lively conversation, which TSA actively participates in.
The agency has good reason to sound the alarm on weapons. In the first six months of 2013 alone, TSA screeners found 894 guns either on passengers or in their carry-on bags, a 30 percent increase over the same time period the previous year. This past May, TSA even set a new record for the most guns seized in a week: 65. Forty-five of them were loaded, and 15 had bullets in the chamber. The new record eclipsed a previous one set just two weeks earlier.
All in all, TSA said it’s seen a shocking rise in the number of travelers attempting to bring firearms into the sky. Whether its new tactic of posting the items on Instagram will do any good (or even reach its intended audience) remains to be seen.
Mark Johanson is the travel editor at the International Business Times. He has traveled to and written about more than 30 nations and territories on every continent except...