More firearms are showing up at TSA airport checkpoints, and virtually all of the confiscated guns have been loaded, a Transportation Security Administration spokesman said Monday.
The TSA detected a loaded handgun at the Dayton International Airport checkpoint Sunday that was discovered in a passenger’s carry-on bag.
It’s the third firearm detected by TSA and then confiscated by airport police this year, compared to just one in all of 2013.
Through June, TSA has detected 1,025 firearms at checkpoints nationwide, a 25 percent increase over the same point a year ago, TSA spokesman Mark Howell said. Last year, Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson Airport led all airports in the number of firearms detected, with 111.
The man who owned the loaded handgun seized at the Dayton airport — a .380 caliber Ruger — had a permit to carry a concealed weapon in Ohio and Florida. He was allowed to board the aircraft, the airport said, adding that he was detained but not arrested. Airport police took possession of the weapon.
“He apparently just grabbed his bag and didn’t realize it was in the bag,” airport spokeswoman Linda Hughes said.
This year, TSA detected nine firearms at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky Airport; two firearms in Cleveland; 12 in Port Columbus; and one in Akron/Canton.
“More guns are showing up at U.S. airports,” Howell said.
The spike in gun seizures comes as firearm sales are booming. According to FBI statistics, background checks for gun buyers reached an all-time high in 2013, hitting 21 million.
Policies vary from airport to airport with some airport authorities allowing passengers to remove firearms to their vehicles and others seizing them. Whether the firearm is eventually returned to the passenger is a decision that rests with airport police, Howell added.
TSA said airport police were immediately alerted after the firearm was discovered Sunday morning.
TSA said the maximum civil penalty for a single, loaded firearm is $7,500.
“People have to mindful of what they bring and check their luggage before they bring it,” spokeswoman Hughes said.
Previous firearms and knife seizures have typically involved people who forgot they had the item in the bag, Hughes said.
Firearms may be transported in checked baggage — provided they are declared to the airline and in a proper carrying case and unloaded — but they are prohibited in carry-on bags that can be stowed in the passenger area of the aircraft, TSA said.
“We don’t want to infringe on anyone’s rights,” Howell said. “But we don’t want someone to put the bag on the belt and the gun goes off. Our advice is to look through bags thoroughly before coming to the airport to make sure there are no illegal or prohibited items.”
Firearms aren’t the only items that have been detected by TSA and taken from carry-on baggage here. Last year, a passenger at Dayton airport was found to be carrying what appeared to be a grenade, but it turned out to be tobacco grinder with a hidden compartment filled with marijuana.
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