Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officers at Dayton International Airport have already confiscated as many firearms so far this year — four, three loaded and one unloaded — as all of last year, TSA officers said Wednesday at an airport press conference.
But then, these security professionals see just about everything as passengers attempt to bring prohibited items aboard planes via their carry-on luggage.
“We actually have had kitchen sinks come through here,” said TSA officer Michaele Ludy. “Here in Dayton, we see everything.”
Actually, other airports seem to see more. Such as Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson, said Mark Howell, a TSA regional spokesman.
In Atlanta, Howell said, “We have found bones — a human skull, actually — on a carry-on bag.”
The TSA sees an average of 25 to 50 pounds of prohibited items each month at Dayton International, Howell said. The list of prohibited items is long, but in general, the TSA doesn’t want to have accessible to passengers anything that can be used as a weapon or could even pass as a weapon in a threatening situation.
That includes handgun replicas, grenade replicas, anything that could pass as a liquid explosive, anything that could be used as a weapon — even loaded cap guns, multi-tools with knives and blades and scissors with blades longer than four inches long.
Most of the items surrendered to the TSA can be placed in luggage checked with the airport. But illegal firearms and explosives will be confiscated and released to Dayton police, Ludy warned.
But even harmless replicas aren’t so harmless. A grenade replica — which Ludy was able to show on Wednesday as taken at Dayton International — can cause problems.
When an object that appears to be a grenade appears on a TSA officer’s monitor, everything stops.
“This can shut down an airport in a heartbeat,” Ludy said, holding a grenade replica.
“Something like that can cause problems for the whole day,” Howell said.
Howell said standard procedure is to have internal or external bomb technicians inspect replicas.
“We probaby had a bomb technician available who came over and took a look,” Howell said, when asked what happened when that replica was surrendered at Dayton International.
Howell corrected what he felt were two common misconceptions: First, the TSA doesn’t “confiscate” anything that isn’t illegal. He said passengers found with prohibited items are given options: They can check the prohibited item, take it back to their vehicle or, at some airports, mail it ahead.
Second, the TSA doesn’t keep anything surrendered to it, he said. A contractor disposes of those items.
“We’re really asking passengers to pay attention to what they bring to the airport,” Powell said.
A list of prohibited items can be found here.