Hartsfield-Jackson No. 1 for taken guns

from Saturday, August 1 AJC…

AIRPORT SECURITY

Hartsfield-Jackson No. 1 for taken guns

State’s expanded gun rights may be factor as confiscations grow.

  By Kelly Yamanouchi  kyamanouchi@ajc.com  

Hartsfield-Jackson leads the nation’s airports in the number of guns — 92 — caught in carry-on bags this year.

It’s a challenge being the world’s busiest airport in one of the world’s gun-loving-est places. Firearms confiscated at Hartsfield-Jackson so far this year are closing on the total for all of last year, 109.

The most common guns found at checkpoints   are 9 mm pistols, said Mark Howell, spokesman for the Transportation Security Administration, and they’re often found nestled among clothing at the bottom of a bag. But now and then, “we actually find them on their person,” Howell said. “It’s pretty rare, but it does happen.”

Hartsfield-Jackson has been the top airport for confiscated guns in the past, but it was overtaken by Dallas-Fort Worth International last year. Now Atlanta is the No. 1 gun-port again.

One factor that may be contributing to the increase is a     new state law that expanded gun rights. Then there are such eyebrow-raising incidents as the Winder man who strolled through the Atlanta terminal in May with an AR-15 rifle slung across his chest. Armed celebrities aren’t immune to the scanners at Hartsfield-Jackson, either, as rapper Waka Flocka Flame learned last fall. Agents found a handgun in his carry-on bag and sent him to the Clayton County Jail.

As the number of firearms found at airports rises, the TSA has launched a campaign to educate travelers on how to legally take guns on commercial flights.

“TSA never wants to infringe on anyone’s right to take a firearm when they travel,” Howell said. “We just don’t want it accessible during the flight.”

The TSA does a weekly rundown   of weapons found at airport checkpoints nationwide on its blog. It recently revealed discoveries of 38 loaded guns, plus stun guns, a hatchet, grenades and a jawbone tomahawk. Some weapons are “artfully concealed,” such as a sword hidden in a cane found at LaGuardia. One traveler in Baltimore had two smoke bombs, 12 bottle rockets, three paracord cutters, four knives, a hatchet, a folding saw and a credit card knife, all in his carry-on bag.

In Atlanta, passengers caught with guns at security checkpoints are taken to the Atlanta Police Department precinct at the airport. Police arrested about a third of the people found with guns at Hartsfield-Jackson checkpoints this year because the passenger lacked a valid permit, according to the airport. Even if the person has a permit and is released, in almost all cases TSA imposes civil penalties of up to $7,500.