Editorial: Guns discovered at airport checkpoints on the rise
Some readers may have been surprised to read that a loaded .32-caliber handgun was confiscated from a woman's carry-on luggage at Tri-State Airport in Ceredo this week.
Passenger screening for commercial air travel has been in place since the 1970s, and with the increased airport security since 9/11, Transportation Security Administration officers search through bags for pocket knives or anything remotely resembling a weapon.
How do you miss that memo?
But believe it or not, the number of guns detected at checkpoints across the nation is on the rise, the TSA reports. The agency's officers found 1,813 firearms in carry-on bags in 2013, up 16.5 percent from the year before. More than 80 percent were loaded.
Through the first few months of this year, the TSA already has discovered 524 handguns, including the incident at Tri-State. In that case, the woman was detained and missed her original flight. She was able to fly out later, but the pistol along with another loaded magazine and a set of brass knuckles were confiscated.
We suspect that in most of these incidents, the passengers just forgot about the weapon. But in this day and age, that is not much of an excuse. Beyond the concerns about hijacking or other violence, just an accidental discharge in flight could be dangerous for everyone on board.
The Tri-State incident serves as a reminder that at minimum forgetting to properly store a weapon will be costly and inconvenient. But at many airports, the discovery of a gun at a checkpoint can also lead to arrest.
The Orlando Sentinel last month reviewed policies and arrest data at 15 major airports. While practices varied, the newspaper found that authorities at airports in Orlando, Dallas, Atlanta and Chicago take a hard line and almost always press charges. In Phoenix, Denver and Jacksonville, most offenders walk free, according to the Sentinel.
Either way, it is best for responsible gun owners to know the rules. Except for certain law officers, federal law prohibits passengers from bringing weapons to or past airport checkpoints.
Firearms and ammunition are permitted only in checked luggage, not carry-on. Weapons must be unloaded and packed in a locked hard-sided container and declared at check-in. Travel experts advise that security officers likely will ask passengers to unlock the case for inspection, so make sure you have the key on hand.
Every member of the traveling public makes sacrifices for the general safety of all, and that includes taking reasonable precautions with firearms.
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