- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 28, 2003

A bayonet hidden in an artificial leg, a gun-toting teddy bear and a lipstick case concealing a sharpened knife are some of the more creative ways passengers are trying to smuggle weapons aboard airplanes.

Many of the more artfully disguised items were displayed this week at the John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York — where more than 100,000 items have been confiscated — to remind travelers to leave weapons at home.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) reports that since February last year it has confiscated more than 7.5 million items including more than 1,400 guns, 2.3 million knives and more than 49,000 box cutters, the weapons used by terrorists to hijack four airplanes.

“Every day screeners are meeting the challenge of keeping flights secure, and all too often they are finding dangerous weapons that passengers are trying to take on flights,” TSA chief James M. Loy said.

The federal government took control of the airline-screening industry after the September 11 attacks, and though security continues to be extensive, that doesn’t seem to have swayed millions of U.S. travellers.

“People who are tempted to discount the importance of screening need to think again,” Mr. Loy said in a statement. Screeners at all airports this Labor Day weekend will check every passenger and every bag, the administrator said.

Carrying weapons into an airport, even accidently, is illegal, and passengers may be detained or prosecuted, a choice left to local authorities. None of the items are returned.

Jim Hall, a safety and security consultant with Hall and Associates, said he found the number of weapons confiscated “astonishing” and “shocking.”

“On the one hand, American taxpayers are paying $10 billion to have good airport security, so it’s reassuring to know that these things are not getting on airplanes,” Mr. Hall said. “But with those numbers, it would appear that we must not be doing an effective job of educating the public prior to getting to the gate.”

The armed teddy bear was passing through an X-ray machine at Florida’s Orlando International Airport last month when screeners spotted the dark outline of a gun inside.

The stuffed animal belonged to a 10-year-old boy from Columbus, Ohio, who said it was given to him by an unknown girl at an Orlando hotel. The .22 caliber gun was reported stolen in 1996 from California, and that case remains under investigation by the FBI.

“What we learned in Orlando is that anyone has the potential to inadvertently bring aboard dangerous items,” TSA spokesman Brian Turmail said.

“I think this underscores that we need to screen everyone. Whether these folks pose a danger or not, we need to keep dangerous items from entering the aircraft,” Mr. Turmail said.

Other incidents are just as strange.

A 67-year old man in Hartford, Conn., was stopped by screeners who discovered he had hollowed out his prosthetic leg and was carrying a 9-inch sword and scabbard. Screeners at that airport also stopped a man who had slid a knife down the shirt of a 6-year-old child.

At Eppley Field Airport in Omaha, Neb., screeners found a knife hidden deep inside a child’s car seat.

A statue that appeared to be an artifact actually concealed a sword and was confiscated at the Luis Munoz Marin International Airport in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Other items confiscated from carry-on luggage include a cologne bottle that resembled a grenade, a grenade torch lighter, swords hidden in canes, brass knuckles, a handgun lighter, lipstick knife, penknife, machete, meat cleaver, lighters hiding knifes, razors in Vaseline jars, and guns hidden in stereos and radios.

Some items turn out to be harmless but hold up airport security checkpoints and can cause disruptions. A fake World War II-era hand grenade caused a delay for passengers last week at Oregon’s Portland International Airport.

On Saturday, a terminal at the Bradley International Airport in Connecticut was closed for three hours, delaying some flights, while an illuminated wall clock was checked for explosives.

Items that can be packed into checked luggage, but not carry-on, include box cutters, ice picks, knives, meat cleavers, razors, sabers, scissors, swords, stun guns and martial-arts throwing stars. The TSA says items like blasting caps, fireworks, lighter fluid, spray paint and liquid bleach must be left at home.

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