By BRINLEY HINEMAN, Associated Press
ATLANTA (AP) — A record-breaking number of weapons was confiscated at Atlanta’s airport last month, federal authorities said.
Thirty guns were found at security checkpoints at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport during May, Transportation Security Administration spokesman Mark Howell said. That’s more than previously discovered at a single airport nationwide in one month.
“People are so used to having guns with them all the time,” Howell said. Normally, passengers are surprised to discover they had forgotten their gun in their bag. There is “hardly ever an intent to do it on purpose,” Howell said.
However, that does not excuse passengers from the hefty fines attached to bringing a gun to a TSA security checkpoint. Fines can reach up to $13,000, Howell said. Typically, first-time offenders are subject to a $3,900 fine.
By the end of May, TSA workers had recovered 108 guns at Atlanta’s airport this year, an increase from the 91 guns discovered by this time last year. Across the country, more than 1,700 guns have been discovered so far this year at airports.
During searches at security checkpoints, multiple guns were sometimes found in the carry-on bag of passengers. On May 3, four guns were recovered from one passenger alone, and the same thing happened a few days later on May 6. On May 26, three were discovered in one passenger’s carry-on.
When a gun is discovered, TSA calls in the Atlanta Police Department to take over. Howell said “80 to 90 percent of the time, the gun is loaded.”
In 2014, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal signed the “Safe Carry Protection Act” into law, expanding where people can carry guns in Georgia.
Passengers are permitted to fly with guns in checked baggage if properly packaged and declared. Guns must be unloaded, packed in a hard-side case, locked and stored separately from the ammunition. The gun must then be given to the airport check-in counter where it will be placed with other checked baggage.
In October 2014 security checkpoint staff discovered that rapper Waka Flocka Flame, whose real name is Juaquin Malphur, had a handgun in his personal carry-on at Atlanta’s airport. A jury later acquitted him, and his lawyer said the rapper had accidentally taken his wife’s bag to the airport without knowing the gun was inside.
In February 2017, guitarist Rick Derringer pleaded guilty to bringing a loaded gun to the airport after he arrived in Atlanta on flight from Mexico with a gun in his bag.