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August 14, 2014

TSA seeing more guns at Charlotte checkpoints

The TSA has already seized more guns this year at Charlotte Douglas so far this year than all of last year, 28 compared with 27.

Don’t try to bring a gun onto a plane. Or a hunting knife, pepper spray, a meat cleaver, brass knuckles or a billy club.

That was the Transportation Security Administration’s message Thursday at Charlotte Douglas International Airport. Security officials displayed a table of those weapons to remind people that – as obvious as it may seem – the TSA is serious about those being prohibited on flights.

Some travelers apparently aren’t getting the message. The TSA has already seized more guns at Charlotte Douglas so far this year than all of last year, 28 compared with 27. Just last week, a loaded .38-caliber and a loaded 9mm handgun were discovered in carry-on baggage at Charlotte Douglas checkpoints, and the TSA discovered two more guns Wednesday.

“It’s hard to believe that 13 years after 9/11, we’re still finding a lot of prohibited items,” said Kevin Frederick, federal security director for the TSA at Charlotte Douglas.

The increased number of weapons discovered at Charlotte Douglas isn’t unique, according to the TSA. Nationwide, the number of guns discovered by the TSA was up 16.5 percent in 2013 compared with 2012.

In most cases, Frederick said, passengers say they simply forgot the weapons were in their bag.

“There didn’t seem to be malicious intent,” he said. In one case this year at Charlotte Douglas, a man was found with a pistol in his bag. It turned out that he had bought the bag at a yard sale and never realized a handgun belonging to the former owner was stored in a pocket.

That’s not considered an excuse, said Charlotte-Mecklenburg police Lt. David Moorefield, who oversees police at the airport.

“We will hold everybody accountable for the contents of their bag,” Moorefield said. “Please, just double-, triple-check your bag.”

Penalties for trying to bring a gun through a checkpoint typically include a criminal charge, seizure of the weapon and fines of several thousand dollars.

And while officials said they were most concerned about guns, they also displayed dozens of other items that have been confiscated from people trying to board planes in Charlotte. Frederick tipped over a security checkpoint bin that was filled with knives and poured them on the table. “This is just in the last month,” he said.

Other confiscated items on display included a rubber mallet, a claw hammer, a belt buckle with a concealed knife inside, a studded leather purse with a brass knuckle-shaped handle and a titanium golf driver.

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