Have gun, won't travel. So why is the TSA finding so many at security checks?

  • These gun/knife combo weapons were among the TSA's top 10 finds 2019.

    These gun/knife combo weapons were among the TSA's top 10 finds 2019. Courtesy of the Transportation Safety Administration

  • Ever wonder why the lines are so long to get through airport screening? Perhaps it's because so many of your fellow passengers are leaving things they shouldn't in their carry-ons. The Transportation Security Administrations says its officers found a record 4,432 firearms during passenger screenings at the nation's airports last year.

    Ever wonder why the lines are so long to get through airport screening? Perhaps it's because so many of your fellow passengers are leaving things they shouldn't in their carry-ons. The Transportation Security Administrations says its officers found a record 4,432 firearms during passenger screenings at the nation's airports last year. Daily Herald File Photo

  • Besides thousands of guns, TSA officers found hundreds of other prohibited items during passenger screenings last year, such as these grenades.

    Besides thousands of guns, TSA officers found hundreds of other prohibited items during passenger screenings last year, such as these grenades. Courtesy of the Transportation Safety Administration

  • These flares were among the TSA's top 10 finds 2019.

    These flares were among the TSA's top 10 finds 2019. Courtesy of the Transportation Safety Administration

  • An air bag was among the TSA's top 10 finds 2019.

    An air bag was among the TSA's top 10 finds 2019. Courtesy of the Transportation Safety Administration

  • Someone thought it was a good idea to bring a power saw aboard a commercial flight in Hartford. It was among the TSA's top 10 finds 2019.

    Someone thought it was a good idea to bring a power saw aboard a commercial flight in Hartford. It was among the TSA's top 10 finds 2019. Courtesy of the Transportation Safety Administration

  • These martial arts sais were among the TSA's top 10 finds 2019.

    These martial arts sais were among the TSA's top 10 finds 2019. Courtesy of the Transportation Safety Administration

  • This blow dart gun was among the TSA's top 10 finds 2019.

    This blow dart gun was among the TSA's top 10 finds 2019. Courtesy of the Transportation Safety Administration

  • Someone tried to bring a snake aboard a flight in Newark, New Jersey, then left it behind when it was found by TSA officers. It was among the TSA's top 10 finds 2019.

    Someone tried to bring a snake aboard a flight in Newark, New Jersey, then left it behind when it was found by TSA officers. It was among the TSA's top 10 finds 2019. Courtesy of the Transportation Safety Administration

  • This butcher knife was among the TSA's top 10 finds 2019.

    This butcher knife was among the TSA's top 10 finds 2019. Courtesy of the Transportation Safety Administration

 
Updated 1/24/2020 9:31 AM

Have gun, won't travel is the law of the land when it comes to flying commercial.

So why did the Transportation Security Administration find a record 4,432 firearms -- 87% of them loaded -- when they searched passengers' carry-on bags last year when they're not allowed in the passenger area of planes?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Mostly because those travelers forgot the guns were there, an agency spokesman tells us.

"The big take-away is pay attention to what's in your bag, because it's almost always a mistake," TSA spokesman Mark Howell said.

And a costly one, at that. While the TSA doesn't criminally prosecute weapons violations -- that's up to the local authorities -- it will fine passengers on average $2,400 for a first offense, and hundreds more if the gun is loaded.

The 4,432 guns discovered last year -- an average 12.1 per day -- is 5% more than in 2018, and nearly four times as many as 10 years ago, when officers found 1,123 firearms.

The two main reasons, Howell told us, are more people flying, and more people owning guns. The agency set its record of most screenings in a day three times last year, on March 24, July 7 and Dec. 1.

by signing up you agree to our terms of service
                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 
The Transportation Security Administrations says its officers found a record 4,432 firearms during passenger screenings at the nation's airports last year. That's 5% more than in 2018 and almost four times as many as a decade ago.
The Transportation Security Administrations says its officers found a record 4,432 firearms during passenger screenings at the nation's airports last year. That's 5% more than in 2018 and almost four times as many as a decade ago. - Courtesy of the Transportation Safety Administration

The good news? Chicago travelers seem to get it. TSA agents found 51 guns last year at O'Hare International Airport and 33 at Midway. Even combined, that wouldn't be enough to place them in the top 10 airports for gun discoveries last year.

Topping that list -- by far -- was Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, with 323. Second was Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport with 217, followed by Denver International Airport with 140.

Howell notes that flying with a gun isn't illegal -- just so long as its packed safely in checked luggage and declared to the airline you're flying.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"We just don't want it accessible on a flight," he said.

And now the weird stuff

These samurai swords were among the TSA's top 10 finds 2019.
These samurai swords were among the TSA's top 10 finds 2019. - Courtesy of the Transportation Safety Administration

Besides loads of guns, what else did TSA find last year?

The agency's annual list of Top 10 finds features some doozies, including a trio of samurai swords in San Jose, a car air bag in Orlando, a power saw in Hartford, a snake in Newark, New Jersey (whose owner left the poor thing behind!), and our personal favorite: a sack of moose poop in (where else?) Juneau, Alaska.

The sack's owner -- who was allowed to keep the nuggets -- later used them during a protest outside the Alaska state capitol, according to local news reports.

This bag of moose poop spotted in Juneau, Alaska was among the TSA's top 10 finds 2019.
This bag of moose poop spotted in Juneau, Alaska was among the TSA's top 10 finds 2019. - Courtesy of the Transportation Safety Administration

You can watch the TSA's video unveiling its top finds of 2019 at tsa.gov/videos/tsas-top-10-finds-2019-0.

One more thing

The TSA doesn't actually seize the weapons it finds, Howell tells us. Instead, they give the passenger an opportunity to "abandon" it or leave the airport with it. Most choose the former, he said.

Cold case convention

Are you fascinated by unsolved mysteries? Do cold case files warm your heart?

Have we got the event for you.

CrimeCon -- think of it as a ComicCon for true-crime junkies -- is coming to Chicago Feb. 21-23 for a "Crowdsolve," where amateur detectives will get together in hopes of solving a decades-old mystery.

The case they'll take on is the disappearance and death of Kurt Sova, a 17-year-old from the Cleveland suburbs. Kurt left home Oct. 23, 1981, to attend a Halloween party with a friend and never returned. His body was discovered six days later in a ravine about 500 yards from the house that hosted the party.

Investigators found no injuries, and authorities ultimately decided he died naturally or by accident. But many, including members of Kurt's family, continue to have doubts nearly four decades later. Among their reasons: Police could find Kurt's right shoe, and his left shoe was found wedged in a pile of rocks nearby; and Kurt's father insisted he searched the ravine and found nothing two days before his son's body was discovered.

To find out more about the case, and next month's event, visit www.crimecon.com/crowdsolve-chicago.

Learning the hard way

Despite all the ads, the news coverage, the social media posts and even the deaths of three Illinois State Police troopers last year, some drivers still didn't get the message about moving over when they see an emergency vehicle stopped alongside a road.

State police made sure they got it last week with an aggressive effort to enforce Scott's Law -- also known as the Move Over Law -- in memory of a fallen colleague.

"Operation Lambert," named after Trooper Christopher Lambert of Highland Park, saw troopers issue 281 Scott's Law citations and 64 warnings during an aggressive enforcement campaign Jan. 12-18, state police said. Troopers also made 77 criminal arrests through 503 Scott's Law details statewide, according to the agency.

The campaign launched on the anniversary of Lambert's death Jan. 12, 2019, along I-294 near Willow Road in Northbrook. The 34-year-old trooper was on his way home for the day when he pulled over to help drivers involved in a three-vehicle crash. An SUV whose driver failed to move over struck him.

Scott's Law requires drivers to change lanes when approaching emergency vehicles, including highway maintenance vehicles, pulled over with their flashing lights turned on. If changing lanes would be impossible or unsafe, drivers must slow down and leave a safe distance until safely passing the stationary vehicle.

Effective Jan. 1, the fine for a first-time offense rose to $250, and a second offense could leave a driver on the hook for a $750 fine.

• Have a question, tip or comment? Email us at copsandcrime@dailyherald.com.

0 Comments
                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 
Article Comments ()
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.