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TSA confiscates shampoo, but not a gun in Bellingham

The TSA found a loaded gun in a man's carry-on bag at Bellingham's airport this week. The passenger was allowed to give the weapon to a friend, who wasn't traveling, and board a plane to Reno, Nevada. (TSA photo)

The Transportation Security Administration routinely confiscates shampoo and hand sanitizer, but not guns.

A TSA screener discovered a revolver in a man’s carry-on bag at Bellingham International Airport this week. The .22-caliber Derringer handgun was loaded with five rounds of ammunition in the chamber.

After some questioning, the man was allowed to turn the gun over to a friend, who wasn’t getting on the plane. He then boarded the flight, which was delayed by the investigation.

One of my listeners heard this story on KIRO radio and wanted to know, “Is it really that easy avoid penalty for trying to board an airplane with a loaded handgun?”

A check with TSA headquarters finds the rules are clear. Travelers may transport unloaded firearms in a locked, hard-sided container in or as checked baggage. All firearms and ammunition are prohibited in carry-on baggage.

Criminal charges and a civil fine of up to $7,500 is the penalty for violations. I’m waiting for a comment from Bellingham authorities on whether the man flying out on Tuesday will face any fine. He was not charged with a crime.

The TSA office says it’s up to local law enforcement to make the call in this case or any incidents involving items that turn up at check points. After the prosecutor’s office gets a police report, they’ll make a decision.

In the past week the TSA discovered 35 weapons at security screenings – 25 of those were loaded.

Among the items they found in screenings at airports around the United States in a week: A switchblade; Inert hand grenades; Three knives were discovered in a passenger’s thermos ; A belt buckle knife; A sword ; and Nine stun guns, including one discovered at SeaTac Airport.

After screening 637,582,122 passengers in 2012, the TSA reports 1,543 firearms were discovered in carry-on bags at checkpoints across the country. That’s a little over four firearms per day. Of those, 1,215 or about 78 percent were loaded.

By LINDA THOMAS

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