published Saturday, August 17th, 2013

Loaded gun found in bag at Chattanooga's airport

A gun the TSA found at the Chattanooga Airport, August 16, 2013.
A gun the TSA found at the Chattanooga Airport, August 16, 2013.
Photo by Contributed Photo /Chattanooga Times Free Press.
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A Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport traveler faces up to $7,500 in civil penalties for carrying a loaded .357-caliber revolver in a carry-on bag Friday morning. It is the second incident of its kind this year at Chattanooga's airport.

According to a Transportation Security Administration news release, TSA officers discovered the gun about 5 a.m. and alerted airport police, who took possession of it.

TSA rules state that weapons of any kind are not permitted in carry-on luggage.

Atlanta-based TSA spokesman Jon Allen said Friday that "it's not uncommon" for travelers to either forget weapons in bags or try to slip them past security.

"Most commonly, what passengers will say is they forgot and didn't realize the firearm was inside the bag," he said.

Airplane gun laws were around long before the sharp spike in airport security after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, Allen said.

Travelers can take guns on flights, but only unloaded and carried in hard-exterior luggage, declared and checked by airport authorities.

TSA documents state that bringing a loaded weapon into airport checkpoints, secure areas or onboard aircraft carries a civil penalty between $3,000 and $7,500 plus a potential criminal referral.

Allen said local police determine whether an offender faces arrest and potential criminal charges. Chattanooga airport, Hamilton County and Chattanooga police did not say Friday whether the traveler, whose name was not released, faces jail time or criminal charges.

Chattanooga airport spokespeople said they had no comment about the incident.

According to TSA statistics, Friday's incident was only the second time a firearm has been found at a Chattanooga airport checkpoint this year. There were three incidents in 2012 and four in 2011, records show.

Through July 31 of this year, TSA reports that 1,044 firearms were found at U.S. airport checkpoints. There were 1,556 checkpoint firearms violations in 2012 and 1,320 in 2011.

A CNBC article from Tuesday stated that neighboring Atlanta ranks at the top of all U.S. airports for gun seizures. As of the beginning of August, TSA officials had seized 67 guns at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, putting it above Dallas-Fort Worth International, 2012's gun seizure leader, the article states.

Contact staff writer Alex Green at agreen@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6731.

about Alex Green...

Alex joined the Times Free Press staff full-time in January 2014 as a region business reporter. He is a native of Dayton, Tenn., located 35 miles north of Chattanooga, and he is a fifth-generation Dayton native. Alex came to the Times Free Press as an editorial intern in July 2013. He was previously a correspondent at The Herald-News, located in Dayton, through college and editor-in-chief of the Triangle, Bryan College's student-led media group. Alex was ...

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