Last year TSA found 1,549 firearms on passengers attempting to go through screening, up 17% from the year before. (...)
As one passenger took off his jacket to go through screening in Sacramento, Calif., last year, TSA officers noticed he was wearing a shoulder holster, and in it was a loaded 9 mm pistol. The same passenger was found to have three more loaded pistols, 192 rounds of ammunition, two magazines and three knives.
Screeners elsewhere found a .45-caliber pistol and magazine hidden inside a cassette deck. Another .45-caliber pistol loaded with seven rounds, including a round in the chamber, was hidden under the lining of a carry-on bag in Charlotte. A passenger in Allentown, Pa., was carrying a pistol designed to look like a writing pen. At first the passenger said it was just a pen, but later acknowledged it was a gun, according to TSA.
A passenger in March at Bradley Hartford International Airport in Connecticut had a loaded .38-caliber pistol containing eight rounds strapped to his lower left leg. At Salt Lake City International Airport, a gun was found inside a passenger's boot strapped to a prosthetic leg.
TSA doesn't believe these gun-toting passengers are terrorists, but the agency can't explain why so many passengers try to board planes with guns, either, Castelveter said. The most common excuse offered by passengers is "I forgot it was there."
"We don't analyze the behavioral traits of people who carry weapons. We're looking for terrorists," he said. "But sometimes you have to scratch your head and say, 'Why?'" (...)
Jimmy Taylor, a sociology professor at Ohio University-Zanesville and the author of several books on the nation's gun culture, said some gun owners are so used to carrying concealed weapons that it's no different to them than carrying keys or a wallet.
The most common reason people say they carry guns is for protection, so it also makes sense that most of the guns intercepted by TSA are loaded, Taylor said. Many gun owners keep their weapons loaded so they're ready if needed, he said.
Even so, Taylor said he finds it hard to believe airline passengers forget they're carrying guns.
"My wife and I check on things like eye drops and Chapstick to see if we're allowed to take them on a plane, so it's a little difficult to imagine that you aren't checking the policies about your loaded firearm before you get to the airport," he said.
Occasionally passengers stopped by TSA are people who are used to carrying guns because they work in law enforcement, security or the military, but that doesn't appear to be the case most of the time.
Robert Spitzer, an expert on gun policy and gun rights, theorizes that for some, the "I forgot" answer is an excuse, "just like somebody who walks out of a store with an unpaid-for item in their pocket. The first thing that person will say is, 'I forgot.' Do people forget sometimes? Sure they do. But are there also people who try to shoplift to get away with something? Sure there are, and I think that's no less true with guns."
Eighty-five percent of the guns intercepted last year were loaded. The most common type of gun was a .38-caliber pistol. (...)
By contrast, at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, where TSA screened nearly 27 million passengers last year, there was a single passenger found to have a gun.
"There are some Americans who believe that there are no limits, that they not only have a constitutional but a God-given right to have a gun and 'By gosh, if I want to bring a gun on a plane I'm going to do it,'" said Spitzer, a professor at the State University of New York-Cortland.
TSA's count of guns intercepted doesn't include all the other kinds of prohibited "guns" that TSA screeners find, like flare guns, BB guns, air guns, spear guns, pellet guns and starter pistols. Screeners find half a dozen to several dozen stun guns on passengers or in their carry-on bags each week. Last December, screeners stopped a passenger in Boston with seven stun guns in his bag. He said they were Christmas presents. The same week, screeners spotted 26 stun guns in the carry-on bag of a passenger at JFK. TSA has found several stun guns disguised as smartphones, and one that looked like a package of cigarettes.
Airports in the South and the West, where the American gun culture is strongest, had the greatest number of guns intercepted, according to TSA data.
Of the 12 airports with the most guns last year, five are in Texas: Dallas-Fort Worth International, 80 guns; George Bush Intercontinental in Houston, 52; Dallas Love Field, 37; William P. Hobby in Houston, 35, and Austin-Bergstrom International, 33. Hartsfield-Jackson in Atlanta had the most for any airport, at 96. Others include Phoenix Sky Harbor, 54; Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International in Florida, 42; Denver International, 39; Seattle-Tacoma International, 37; Orlando International Airport in Florida, 36, and Tampa International in Florida, 33.And then, finally, this example of a gun permit holder who was caught with his loaded guns at a TSA screening point:
Most of those who are stopped with guns are reluctant to talk about it afterward. One who didn't mind was Raymond Whitehead, 53, of Santa Fe, N.M., who was arrested at Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey in May after screeners spotted 10 hollow-point bullets in his carry-on bag. Whitehead, who is completely blind, also had a .38 caliber Charter Arms revolver in his checked bag that he had failed to declare. He said in an interview with the AP that he was unaware of the specifics of the rules for checking guns, or that hollow-point bullets are illegal in New Jersey.
Whitehead acknowledged that it seems "counterintuitive" for a blind man to have a gun but said he keeps a loaded gun handy for protection from intruders. In such a situation, he said, he would call out a warning that he had a gun and spray bullets in the direction of the noise if the intruder didn't leave.
"I have five shots, and if I fan it out I'm going to hit you," said Whitehead, a National Rifle Association member who owns five guns.Don't get me started about why a blind person should even have guns on his person. This is what our gun culture is bringing to us. As I have said many times before, with more loaded guns now carried by more people into more places, we are not going to be safer. Some of these folks don't think the rules apply to them. These are supposed "law abiding" gun owners.
Until they are not.
I know that the corporate gun lobby and its' minions believe that there should be no "gun free zones". They also think the American public should just be more comfortable with people carrying guns around in public. I mean, what could possibly go wrong? They believe they should be able to take their loaded guns with them wherever they find themselves. But if you check out the Ohh Shoot blog, you will see how this actually works out for some of them. We should all be aware that gun permit holders do not always follow the law. It's time to re-examine not only our gun laws but the culture of guns and gun ownership that leads to careless and provocative behavior. Guns are dangerous. They should not be at airports and on airplanes at the least. Fly safe everyone.
One of my Minnesota gun rights readers has responded that he has no problem with guns in the non-secure area of airports. I looked up this article in response and found that my state of Minnesota is only 1 of 7 in the country that actually allow passengers with guns in the unsecured areas.
"We like our guns in Michigan"? Really? What kind of an answer is that. And there is a sad story about now deceased Minnesota gun rights activist Joel Rosenberg, quoted in the article above. Not only did he apparently carry his gun at the MSP airport, he also posted a video of himself carrying his gun in the Minneapolis City Hall. For that he was charged and arrested. I would say that, well known as he was and beloved by some, he didn't exhibit a lot of common sense when it came to gun carrying.An Associated Press survey of the 20 busiest U.S. airports found that seven of them - Philadelphia, Detroit, Phoenix, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Dallas/Fort Worth, Los Angeles and San Francisco - let people with gun permits carry firearms in the general public areas of the terminal.Some anti-terrorism experts say that is a glaring security loophole that could endanger airport workers, passengers and people waiting to pick them up or see them off. Some suggest that allowing guns in terminals is practically asking for them to be smuggled aboard a plane."If your airport is not secure, then the security of your airplanes is jeopardized," said Rafi Ron, former security chief at Ben Gurion Airport in Israel who now works as an aviation consultant. "You cannot separate the two."Other authorities say the nonsecure areas of the terminal are no different from other public venues and do not warrant special restrictions."It's really not more of a concern than at a mall or a train station," said Philadelphia police Lt. Louis Liberati.Under federal law, it is illegal everywhere to try to carry a gun through a security checkpoint. The rest of the terminal, however, has long been the domain of state and local authorities.Jon Allen, a spokesman for the federal Transportation Security Administration, said the TSA has not taken a position on guns in airports and has no authority under federal law to ban them.The issue has led to clash in Georgia between a new state law that allows guns on public transportation and the Atlanta airport's ban on loaded weapons. Last month, a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit brought against the city by a gun rights group. At an earlier hearing, he warned that guns at the world's busiest airport could pose a "serious threat to public safety and welfare." The gun group has appealed.Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, was surprised to learn that airports have been allowing weapons for years, and warned that Congress could move to ban the practice. In a July letter to TSA, Thompson called guns in terminals "a threat to the safety of airline travelers."However, even at those airports that ban guns, officials are not frisking people or using metal detectors on them as they enter the terminal. Experts say an additional layer of security like that would be unworkable at America's bustling airports.In 2002, an Egyptian immigrant killed two people and wounded several others near a ticket counter at the Los Angeles airport before he was shot to death by an El Al Israel Airlines security guard.Some gun owners who take their weapons to the airport cite the need for protection. Others carry a gun frequently and say they do not want to be bothered finding a place to stash it if they go to the airport.Joel Rosenberg, a firearms instructor in Minneapolis, said he regularly carries a gun to the city's airport and has not heard of any problems caused by the policy."People who are law-abiding are going to be law-abiding whether they have a .38 snubby on their hip or not," he said.Some airports that allow the guns say they are trying to accommodate the culture of their patrons."We like our guns in Michigan," said Scott Wintner, a spokesman for Detroit Metro Airport.Similarly, Brian Murnahan, spokesman for the Dallas-Fort Worth airport, said his airport's policy is driven by pragmatism: Texans often carry guns. "While we certainly don't encourage people to bring guns to the airport, we are trying to be reasonable," he said.The state's other major airport has a strict no-guns ordinance."It's posted everywhere," said Marlene McClinton of Houston-George Bush Intercontinental Airport. "But this is Texas," she said, explaining that the airport has cited some visitors for violations. Unlawful carrying of a weapon is a misdemeanor in Texas, punishable by up to a year in jail and a $4,000 fine.Gun rights supporters say law-abiding citizens with guns could fire back and cut short a gunman's rampage. But Ron, the Israeli security expert, said the last thing airport security agents need is a hail of bullets and no idea who the bad guy is."That leads to chaos," he said, "and that can lead to tragedy."
If you are a passenger, hopefully you have already packed your gun in your checked luggage by the time you get to the secure area or you will be one of the folks the TSA will pull out of line and maybe even arrest for trying to bring a gun on board a plane. If you are picking someone up in the baggage area, please tell me what in the world you are so afraid of that you simply MUST have your loaded gun on your person to do so. Come on. There is absolutely no reason to need a gun in these areas of the airport. People want them but they don't need them.