- The Washington Times - Monday, January 13, 2003

Will it pass airport security?
The Guardian Angel purse has arrived. A pair of Dutch designers is selling handbags that feature the fake but unmistakable shape of a handgun embossed on the pink felt surface, in bold relief.
"Armed with a gun, a knife or faith, nobody will hurt you," advises Hein Van Dam, who also offers purses with knife or crucifix impressions.
But Mr. Van Dam intends his design to be interpreted as quirky fashion statement rather than a deterrent, an arty response to recent press reports of increased crime in the Netherlands.
Only "old people," he said, don't get the meaning of the handbag.
Meaningful or not, the purses made from pieces of used handbags are not cheap. Priced at $90, versions in several stylish colors are being sold in the Netherlands, Germany and Japan, and on the Internet.
The purses and their realistic silhouettes may present a quandary, or at least an interesting cultural moment, for law-enforcement officials in a post-September 11 world.
Faced with a 35 percent increase in gun-related crime, Great Britain, for example, announced Wednesday that officials would crack down on anyone toting a replica gun.
"If someone is waving a cigarette lighter shaped like a firearm at police officers, then that is very different from it being used to light a cigarette in a pub," a spokeswoman told the British Broadcasting Corp.
Meanwhile, the idea of gun silhouette as design element does not register with William Anderson, who manufactures a line of "Pistol Purses" in Northern California.
"The whole idea is to conceal a firearm, not advertise it," he said.
Mr. Anderson's leather and tapestry designs, meant for those who legally carry a gun have an interior holster and "rip-cord weapon compartment." He could only guess at the message behind the Dutch gun purses.
"It's a pretty half-baked idea," Mr. Anderson said. "Like, have faith but don't carry a pistol. These things could actually give somebody a false sense of security."
A gun-purse-toting woman could cause some consternation at an airport, he theorized.
"These days, if you project any idea you have a gun, you'll cause a mess," he said. "Even a Smith & Wesson logo somewhere. That's why we don't put any recognizable logos on our line."
Mr. Anderson also offers backpacks and other wearables that can conceal a weapon.
The idea seems to inspire Yankee ingenuity.
New York-based Defense Security Products offers something called "Thunderwear," a holster which is an undergarment as well.
"Tired of pulling your pants up all the time?" asks Thunderwear product information. "Is the old ankle holster just a 'little' awkward?"
Almost 200,000 people, most of them civilians, have bought Thunderwear, the company says. About 10 percent are female.
Arizona-based Galco International, whose products have been seen in 26 movies and nine TV shows, offers five styles of its holster purse. Feminine accouterments have not been overlooked.
While a spacious inside hanging pocket and two additional full-size pockets allow you to easily organize such contents as papers, makeup bag, eyeglasses and keys, the side entry, self-contained holster compartment has a locking zipper and accommodates most small and large frame firearms," the company says.

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