Travelers with something to hide have gotten a lot more creative, and dangerous, than ever before.
The Transportation Security Administration last year confiscated a record number of concealed firearms and other illegal goods at airports around the country. The TSA screened more than 653 million passengers and confiscated 2,212 firearms found in carry-on bags in 2014. That represents a 22 percent increase in firearm discoveries over 2013 and more than three times the number of discoveries in 2005, the agency said on its blog.
The confiscated firearms – 83 percent of which were loaded – were intercepted at a total of 224 airports, or 19 more than last year.
These were the five airports where the most firearms were confiscated:
- Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport
- Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport
- Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport
- George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston
- Denver International Airport
The TSA also confiscated more than 140 inert or novelty hand grenades in both checked and carry-on bags.
While it’s actually not illegal to travel by plane with a firearm – which may come as a huge surprise to many in the wake of the 9/11 terror attacks – there are strict rules to follow for those who choose to do so. Travelers may only transport unloaded firearms in a locked, hard-sided container as checked baggage, for example.
Firearms also cannot be transported in carry-on luggage and must be declared to the airline during the ticket counter check-in process. There are more details on how to legally travel with a firearm on the TSA website.
Some travelers seem to take inspiration from action flicks or spy novels when it comes to hiding firearms as well as drugs in cell phones, credit cards, greeting cards, lipstick tubes, keys and other items. Other people appeared oblivious to the restrictions regarding flying with firearms.
Here are some of the stunning discoveries:
- An 8.5” knife was discovered inside an enchilada – yes, an enchilada – at the Charles M. Schulz Sonoma County Airport in Santa Rosa, California. The passenger was ultimately cleared for flight: “The passenger’s intent was delicious, not malicious,” the TSA said on its blog, adding, “It’s always important to double check your bags and enchiladas.”
- A San Jose passenger was arrested after agents found nearly three pounds of cocaine in his checked baggage – all wrapped inside a package of raw meat.
- A cane sword with a blade longer than one inch was found at Dayton International Airport in Ohio.
- An unloaded cannon barrel was found in a passenger’s checked items at the Kahului Airport in Hawaii.
- A 94-year-old man with a loaded .38 caliber revolver clipped to his belt attempted to enter the TSA checkpoint at LaGuardia Airport in New York.
While some Americans applaud the work of TSA and thank the administration for its work to keep innocent travelers safe, others decry the waste of taxpayer money on these efforts, pointing out that only a small fraction of the firearm confiscation is related to terrorism.
On a more positive note, there were no TSA casualties in 2014 – a welcome change after a TSA officer was killed in the line of duty at the Los Angeles International Airport in 2013.
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