Careless packing leads to record guns in US airports

Posted at 10:26 PM, Dec 05, 2017
and last updated 2017-12-05 23:26:01-05

In Milwaukee and across the country, 2017 will be another record year for guns discovered at airport security checkpoints.

Despite federal and local laws banning firearms in airports, travelers continue to put bags containing guns into places secured by the Transportation Security Administration.

TSA Wisconsin Federal Security Director Mark Lendvay said concealed carry has become so common people are forgetting they have a firearm in their bags.

"They're not as cautious as they're preparing to travel with the bag they may be taking to the local range," Lendvay said.

At least once a month, Lendvay's agents at Mitchell International Airport have to shut down a security lane because a bag contains a gun.

In the first 11 months of 2017, 14 people showed up at a Mitchell checkpoint with a gun in their carry-on bag. That is up from 12 in all of 2016 and seven in 2015.

Across the country, a record number of firearms were found at checkpoints in each of the last three years.

In Milwaukee, this happens despite a county law prohibiting guns in the public side of the terminal.

Federal law makes it a crime to have a firearm on the secured side of the airport, or to bring a gun into the checkpoint between the two.

At Mitchell Airport, Lendvay said the overwhelming majority of people caught with a gun are concealed carry permit holders. Their excuse is usually forgetfulness.

Until several months ago, that excuse was good enough for them to escape any penalty under the Milwaukee County law.

Former Sheriff David Clarke declined to cite or charge concealed carry permit holders who brought their gun to an airport checkpoint.

In a 2016 statement, Clarke told the I-TEAM "I trust CCL holders."

Acting Sherif Richard Schmidt has changed procedure at the airport and will enforce the county ordinance.

Schmidt, in a statement, said CCL holders "will receive a county citation for presenting a weapon at a checkpoint."

Mark Lendvay said that citation will come on top of a federal fine of up to $3,000 and potential federal criminal charges.

It's a strong reaction, but Lendvay said it is necessary.

TSA never knows when an honest mistake could be cover for something more sinister.

"Although they say they forgot, we don't know if someone is testing the system. We don't know if that 'oops I forgot' is someone trying nefariously to come through the system with a weapon," Lendvay said.