TULSA, Okla. — More guns are being packed into luggage, officials at TSA say, over the last five years.
In fact, the agency – which was formed in the aftermath of September 11, 2001 – reports the highest number of guns coming through checked and carry-on luggage was in 2021, than in its 20-year history.
Travelers are allowed to pack a gun into their luggage – if it unloaded, locked in a case, checked into baggage, and declared to TSA.
If you’re traveling with a gun, there is a legal way to do it to avoid delays or fines, as high as $13,900.
Patricia Mancha is the regional spokesperson for the TSA.
“When we have travelers come to the airport using the excuse, ‘Well, I didn’t pack my own bag, or I didn’t know what was in my bag,’” she says, “That’s actually a security risk. You know, it’s important for people to know what’s in their bag. If they don’t know what to bring or they have questions, we actually have lots of resources.”
You can find those resources are on the TSA’s website before you get to the airport.
Jeff Yates of Tulsa was traveling to Nashville on Thursday. He says he has never traveled with a gun, but he has many friends who have been stopped at the airport.
“A lot of them were hunters,” he says, “And they typically don’t think about that, and they get to the airport, things are crazy, get on a flight. The next thing you know, they’re getting pulled off to the side.”
When a gun is found in checked or carry-on luggage, TSA calls the local police, who then take control of the investigation, which includes a criminal background check and the traveler’s name being referred to the FBI for an investigation.
If the traveler has a prior criminal history or there is some other threat, the gun is confiscated and held in evidence until the district attorney’s office has concluded its investigation.
But, if all that comes back clear, Tulsa Airport Police no longer turn the case over to the Tulsa District Attorney’s Office.
Last year, 43 guns were found at Tulsa International Airport, in checked and carry-on luggage.
That’s lower than the 48 from 2021 but higher than in the three years before that.
If the police find the traveler is not a threat, they escort that person out of the security area, the unloaded firearm is returned to the traveler, and they have to leave the airport.
But they will get a letter in the mail weeks or even months later.
“That [letter] will inform them that they are subject to an administrative fine,” Mancha says, “And that will have to do with the particulars of the case. We have repeat offenders who may have an increased fine. Right now, the highest fine that can be levied against someone is $13,900.”
A high price to pay for not checking in your gun the right way.’”
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