Teen stopped at airport for design on purse

17-year-old missed flight to Jacksonville after agents inspected gun replica

Published On: Dec 01 2011 04:05:38 PM EST   Updated On: Dec 02 2011 06:11:20 PM EST
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -

A teenage girl's sense of style got her in trouble at the airport.

Vanessa Gibbs, 17, claims the Transportation Security Administration stopped her at the security gate because of the design of a gun on her handbag.

Gibbs said she had no problem going through security at Jacksonville International Airport, but rather, when she headed home from Virginia.

"It's my style, it's camouflage, it has an old western gun on it," Gibbs said.

But her preference for the pistol style didn't sit well with TSA agents at the Norfolk airport.

Gibbs said she was headed back home to Jacksonville from a holiday trip when an agent flagged her purse as a security risk.

"She was like, 'This is a federal offense because it's in the shape of a gun,'" Gibbs said. "I'm like, 'But it's a design on a purse. How is it a federal offense?'"

After agents figured out the gun was a fake, Gibbs said, TSA told her to check the bag or turn it over.

By the time security wrapped up the inspection, the pregnant teen missed her flight, and Southwest Airlines sent her to Orlando instead, worrying her mother, who was already waiting for her to arrive at JIA.

"Oh, it's terrifying. I was so upset," said Tami Gibbs, the teen's mom. "I was on the phone all the way to Orlando trying to figure out what was going on with her. It was terrifying. I don't ever want to go through it again."

Vanessa and her mom said it's hard to believe anyone could mistake the design on the purse for a real gun because it's just a few inches in size and it's hollow, not to mention Vanessa has taken it on planes before.

"I carried this from Jacksonville to Norfolk, and I've carried it from Norfolk to Jacksonville," Vanessa said. "Never once has anyone said anything about it until now."

TSA isn't budging on the handbag, arguing the phony gun could be considered a "replica weapon." The TSA says "replica weapons have prohibited since 2002."

It's a rule that Vanessa feels can't be applied to a purse.

"Common sense," she said. "It's a purse, not a weapon."

A TSA official at JIA said it's not that uncommon for passengers to wear something that could be considered a gun replica, but the official encourages everyone to check the prohibited items list, which can be found online or at the airport before going through security.