Austin (KXAN) — With the gradual rise in the number of firearms found at Transportation Security Administration (TSA) checkpoints at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, the TSA held a presentation on how to travel safely and legally with guns. While they were at it, the TSA presented some banned items they found in some travelers’ luggage.
Austin-Bergstrom ranked among the top 10 US airports for the most firearms found in hand luggage for the first time since the TSA began releasing data in 2008. The number of such incidents nationwide has increased from 5,972 in 2021 to 6,542 in 2022. Only 1,123 firearms were found at TSA checkpoints across the country, according to the TSA.
Among the items that people either forgot they were in their bags before passing through the TSA checkpoint or deliberately tried to hide were stun guns, pepper spray, skittles, demilitarized grenade launchers, hunting knives, brass knuckles, garden tools and a wide range of harmless objects with sharp knives hidden inside.
What can a deadly knife hide, you ask? Apparently, a lot. The security forces confiscated an umbrella sword, lipstick that rolls into a dagger, and a comb with a knife hidden inside.
Patricia Mancha, a spokeswoman for the TSA, said that a couple of years ago in Houston, a man tried to sneak a meth canister through a TSA checkpoint by hiding it in his breakfast burrito.
“The anomaly was found on the x-ray. So, he was asked to open his burrito,” Mancha said, “and sure enough, there was a canister of methamphetamine,” Mancha said.
Punishment for carrying a firearm through a TSA checkpoint
Every time a TSA agent finds a weapon, the check is stopped and the police are called, Munch said. Once the police confirm that it is a firearm, the case goes to trial.
Whether a person is arrested or not usually depends on the local police department. They will consider mitigating factors, such as a criminal record and the legality of a weapon, when deciding whether to arrest a person, Munch said.
“In addition, travelers face fines of up to $15,000 from the TSA. So it’s not a cheap experience either,” she said.
Mancha said the excuses people used to get caught at a TSA checkpoint with guns were laughable at times.
“My three year old packed my bag (with a gun in it). That’s the excuse we’ve actually heard… So, you know, we’re just reminding people that if you’re a responsible gun owner, you should always know where your gun is.”
“If you are going to travel, we recommend that you start from scratch, empty the bag you are going to use as your carry-on or check your luggage to know exactly what is in it. It is the responsibility of every traveler to pack their luggage,” Mancha said.
Traveling with a deadly weapon
Carrying firearms and ammunition on an aircraft is legal if the passenger follows TSA regulations. The guidelines direct the individual to declare the items to their airline and store them in a closed, hard-walled container in checked baggage. It is never permitted to keep weapons, ammunition or any parts of firearms in carry-on baggage.
“So, follow these simple steps and you’ll have a better time at the airport,” Maha said.
For other items that travelers can ask if they can take it with them or not, TSA has a search engine where someone can type in the name of the item and it will tell you if it can be taken on the plane.