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Check Your Carry-On: TSA Finding More Guns & Weapons At Pensacola Airport

Bob Barrett

The nation’s airports are gearing for what’s being predicted as one of the busiest travel seasons ever and that means longer lines for the TSA’s security screening. You can make those lines go quicker by remembering a few simples tips, including leaving your guns at home.

Sari Koshetz, a spokesperson for the Transportation Security Administration was in Pensacola this week reminding travelers and the media things that should be obvious: don’t try to take a gun aboard an airplane. Over the past 12 months, officers at Pensacola International Airport have stopped 800 pounds of prohibited items and 3,800 pounds of hazardous materials from being taken on planes. And that’s in addition to the guns. "Right here in Pensacola, TSA has already stopped seven firearms at the checkpoint. Last year, for the entire year, we stopped seven." Koeshez said five of the seven were loaded. One women was stopped, the rest were men and they ranged in age from 26 to 72. "We really need everybody to pay attention to what's in their suitcase before they head to the airport." 

Depending on the circumstances, you may or may not be arrested for attempting to bring a gun onto an airplane. But even if you do not end up facing criminal charges, it will end up costing you money. The minimum civil penalty for bringing a firearm to an airport security checkpoint is $3,000. The fine could reach $11,000.  And if you think taking the bullets without the gun it okay, think again. "One day we stopped someone who had 100 rounds of ammunition in their carry-on bag. So there's been many days when people left their gun at home, but they have magazines and boxes of ammunition in their suitcase. You can not have the ammunition in your carry-on."  

Credit Bob Barrett
A cane containing a blade is demonstrated.

  There is a correct way to pack and check a firearm and ammunition. "[You must] declare it to the airline, have the gun unloaded, it has to be in a hard-sided, locked case and the ammunition has to be packed safely as well."

Sari Koshetz says that the TSA officers at the security screening stations are always being tested and trained, and can find threats most people may miss. "We found stun guns that look exactly like a cell phone on the exterior. we found combs that have a knife inside the handle." Officers are also looking for items that could be combined with others to be a threat. "Our officers are looking for improvised explosive devices but also the components of improvised explosive devices because we know one passenger could bring one part and another passenger could bring another. And this is the environment we live in, we have to be looking out for everything that could harm you."

Koshetz also say remember the 3-1-1 rule when packing liquids in your carry-on bags: 3.4 ounces or less per container, 1 quart size clear, plastic zip-top bag, and one bag per passenger. She also suggests arriving at least two hours before domestic flights and three hours before international flights because lines will be long during the summer travel season. You can also register for the TSA Pre Check Program to get through the security line even faster. 

Bob Barrett has been a radio broadcaster since the mid 1970s and has worked at stations from northern New York to south Florida and, oddly, has been able to make a living that way. He began work in public radio in 2001. Over the years he has produced nationally syndicated programs such as The Environment Show and The Health Show for Northeast Public Radio's National Productions.