Guns

“Your Flight Has Been Canceled”

Winter weather and pandemic-related staffing issues are creating a nightmare for travelers.

Thousands of flights have been canceled or delayed – or delayed and then canceled – over the holiday weekend and now into this week.

On Tuesday, more than 1,000 flights across the country were canceled, while thousands more experienced delays. When we checked late Tuesday evening, FlightAware was already showing more than 650 flight cancelations for Wednesday and it’s a good bet that more will be canceled overnight.

We hope you are not caught up in the mess.

“Artfully Concealed” Knives

TSA has some alarming images and statistics about ‘artfully concealed’ and not-so-artfully concealed weapons that people try to bring through airport checkpoints.

Incredibly alarming are the knives discovered on Monday sewn inside a kid’s stuffed animal at Philadelphia International Airport (PHL)

“The stuffed animal, which appeared to be a black bear in a space-age technology suit and cape, triggered an alarm as it entered the checkpoint X-ray machine,” TSA said in a statement. “The X-ray image indicated something concealed inside the bear and upon closer inspection, TSA officers noticed that the back of the bear showed signs it had been re-stitched.”

When the stitching was removed, two knives were found inside the bear’s stuffing.

The mother of the boy carrying the toy told officials that the bear is a comfort toy for her son. But TSA says the mom will likely face a Federal civil penalty for this violation.

Meanwhile, right before the Christmas holiday, TSA shared that so far this year its officers have found more than 5,700 firearms at security checkpoints. That is a 20-year record.

It’s only February and TSA has set a new record

It was alarming to learn that during 2017,  the Transportation Security Administration found a record setting 3,957 firearms in carry-on bags at airport checkpoints.

That was 16.7 percent (556 more) firearms than found in 2016, when ‘only’ 3,391 firearms were found.

Will 2018 see a dip in the number of firearms passengers bring to the security checkpoints?

Not likely: It’s only February and another record has been broken: between February 5th and 11th, TSA found a record breaking 104 firearms in carry-on bags. Of those 104 firearms, 87 were loaded and 38 had a round chambered.

The previous week-long record? 96 firearms found during one week in July 2017.

TSA’s 2015 gun tally

For the Runway Girl Network, I put together a year-end review of the guns, weapons and assorted odd items discovered by TSA at airport checkpoints during 2015.

TSA GUN

In 2014, the TSA reported that it had discovered 2,122 firearms in the carry-on bags of passengers. That was an average of six firearms per day and was a 22 percent increase over the number of firearms (1,813) found in 2013.

TSA’s official 2015 Year in Review is due out any minute, but my unofficial tally taken from the weekly reports on the TSA Blog adds up to 2,495 firearms found at airport checkpoints this past year – which is yet another new record.

Of course, prohibited items found by Transportation Security Officers in carry-on bags and on passengers passing through security checkpoints aren’t limited to firearms.

Last year TSA found, 40 pounds of marijuana in one man’s bag at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, a meat slicer at Southwest Florida International Airport and a knife concealed inside a souvenir replica of the Eiffel Tower, found at Oakland International Airport.

Meat Slicer found in a carry-on bag at Southwest Florida International Airiport_edited

And, in the same week in March that the TSA found 55 firearms (51 loaded; 13 with a round chambered) and 13 stun guns, a Chihuahua was discovered inside a checked bag at New York’s LaGuardia Airport.

How did that happen?

“Apparently, the dog climbed in while its owner was packing her suitcase. TSA worked with the airline to identify the owner, and the two were happily reunited,” the TSA reported.

Knife concealed in an Eiffel Tower replica - found at Oakland Airport_edited

Chihauhua found in carry-on bag at LaGuardia Airport_edited

Guns in Texas airports

Houston Airports - gun sign

Signs like this are now posted at airports in Houston.

 

There’s a new “open carry” gun law in Texas that allows legally licensed handgun owners to openly carry a holstered gun in public.

But, as the Houston Airport System memo notes, “there still are some restrictions in certain locations, including at airports.”

A statement outlining what the new state rules mean for passengers and employees at George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH), William P. Hobby Airport (HOU) and Ellington Airport (EFD) – and  other airports in the state – reminds travelers that gun owners with properly licensed and displayed guns (as well as gun owners with licenses for concealed weapons) “can have their gun in public areas only, like baggage, ticketing, garages and public sidewalks or walkways.”

Federal law still prohibits passengers from bringing weapons to or past airport security checkpoints and the TSA is permitted to issue fines to travelers found with loaded or unloaded guns.

But an amendment to the Texas handgun licensing law that went into effect in September says a passenger found with a licensed gun at an airport checkpoint won’t be subject to felony charges as long as the gun was taken to the airport by accident  (the explanation the TSA says most everyone caught with a gun at an airport seems to give) and as long as the passenger immediately takes their gun away from the secure area when it’s found.
The TSA issues a weekly report of the number of firearms (and other prohibited items) found at airports checkpoints and does an annual year-end tally.

Three Texas airports – DFW, and both George Bush Intercontinental and Hobby Airport in Houston – were in the TSA’s list of “Top 10 Airports for Gun Catches in 2014.”

Open carry laws in many other states already permit licensed gun owners to bring firearms into the public areas of airports and in June a man dropping his daughter off at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International made national news by walking through the airport carrying an AR-15 rifle.

Are TSA PreCheck centers easy-access?

TSA PreCheck Enrollment Center at IND Airport - courtesy TSA

 

No balloons fell from the ceiling last week when the U.S. Department of Homeland Security celebrated the fact that over 500,000 travelers have handed over personal data – and $85 – to join the Transportation Security Administration’s expedited airport screening program since the first public enrollment center opened at Indianapolis International Airport in December 2013.

Today, the Global Gateway Alliance, a group that advocates for improvements at the New York metropolitan area airports, released a report offering TSA advice on how to push the PreCheck enrollment numbers higher.

There are currently about 300 PreCheck application sites nationwide processing, altogether, more than four thousand new applications a day. Twenty-eight of those sites are in airports (LAX and ATL each have two), with many others co-located at pre-existing sites in strip malls, office and industrial parks, and a few chiropractic offices contracted to do credentialing for airport and railroad workers and for truck drivers hauling hazardous materials to and from port facilities.

The range of off-airport sites “makes it easier for the traveling public to apply for TSA PreCheck,” said TSA’s Feinstein. But putting enrollment centers “in places where people actually congregate, which can be conveniently accessed, would raise awareness and participation the program,” the GGA suggests.

In the New York area, the TSA currently has enrollment centers at Terminal C at LaGuardia and in Terminal 4 at JFK. GGA’s report urges TSA to expand throughout area airport terminals “to reach travelers at the point when they are most likely to be thinking about airport security.”

Have you applied for the PreCheck program? How did it go?

(My story about TSA Precheck centers first appeared on USA TODAY).