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