Leading article: Simon Calder

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The Independent Online
This week, the governor of California announced he had bought 600 army-surplus M16 automatic weapons for the Los Angeles police. The move will not necessarily make British travellers feel more secure about visiting the place. Yet more alarming, a story in the Los Angeles Times suggests that security at the city's international airport is less than perfect.

Earlier this month, a man wanted for making terrorist threats was apprehended by security staff at an airport checkpoint. He was trying to carry a small arsenal of weapons and ammunition on to a domestic flight. Yet instead of locking him up and throwing away the key, as you might have expected, the culprit simply handed over the deadly consignment to police and continued his journey.

It appears that attempting to take a gun on to an aircraft is a felony only if the weapon is loaded - carrying ammunition separately circumvents federal law. So no penalty applies for that. But what, you might ask, about the small matter of being wanted for making terrorist threats? Well, he was wanted by police in his home state of Minnesota. When their counterparts in Los Angeles phoned up to say they had got him, Minnesota's finest declined to come and fetch him because of the time and expense involved.

Travellers may be gratified to learn that he was finally apprehended last week, without the law having to do much detective work. He phoned LA police to give them his address for the return of the weapons. They called their chums in Minnesota, who picked him up.

The three-letter code for Los Angeles airport suddenly seems singularly appropriate: LAX.

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