Guns at airports

(Guns at the Airport: TSA Catching Firearms at Record Pace is my first story for AOL Travel. An excerpt from the story is below. More to come. )

TSA Stuffed Animal

Firearms top the list of items passengers are prohibited from taking past airport security checkpoints and onto airplanes. Yet, during 2012 that didn’t stop travelers from trying to get more than 1,500 handguns and other firearms past Transportation Security Administration officers at U.S. airports.

According to the TSA, last year 1,543 firearms — 1,215 (78%) of them loaded – were discovered in carry-on bags at checkpoints at 199 of the nation’s more than 450 commercial airports.

Most of the firearms discovered were handguns. One gun was found inside a hollowed out book at the Honolulu International Airport. A dissembled gun (and ammunition) was found hidden inside three stuffed animals at Providence T.F. Green Airport in Rhode Island. And while some people certainly try to sneak guns past checkpoints, most travelers caught with firearms at airports claim they simply forgot they had the weapon with them.

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (where in 2008 officials tried – and failed – to have the entire airport declared a gun-free zone) holds the number one spot for 2012 on the list of “Top 5 Airports for Gun Discoveries” posted on the TSA’s blog. During 2012, 95 firearms were discovered at the ATL checkpoint.

Other airports on the “Top 5” list include Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (80 firearms), Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (54 firearms), Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport (52 firearms) and Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (42 firearms found).

In response to the Newtown school shootings, President Barack Obama has put new gun control laws on the table. But Adam Winkler, a constitutional law professor at the UCLA School of Law and the author of “Gunfight: The Battle Over the Right to Bear Arms in America,” says he hasn’t heard any new proposals for banning guns in the pre-security areas of airports.

“People are talking about more broad-based types of laws,” said Winkler, “But if there was a mass shooting in a non-secure area of an airport, you’d hear it being discussed.”

In the meantime, TSA continues its efforts to keep firearms (and other prohibited items) from passing through airport checkpoints.

In the first two weeks of January 2013, 49 firearms were discovered in carry-on bags at U.S. airport checkpoints, including one handgun at the Atlanta airport and two at Phoenix Sky Harbor.

During the first two weeks of 2012, “only” 38 firearms were spotted in carry-on bags at airport checkpoints.

(For the full version of this story see Guns at the Airport: TSA Catching Firearms at Record Pace on AOL Travel.)

(Photo courtesy TSA)


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