- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Traveling for the holidays? Have everything you need? Razor? Toothbrush? Handgun? Ammunition?

Homeland Security officials say that even now, three years after the September 11 terrorist attacks prompted new security measures at airports, passengers continue to show up at the terminals carrying guns and bullets.

Airport screeners find 2,000 bullets and 75 guns per month on passengers or in carry-on bags, said Mark Hatfield, spokesman for the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). At 450 airports across the country, an average of two guns per day are discovered.

“The numbers are going up,” Mr. Hatfield said.

Nearly every case is accidental — hunters forget to take ammo out of coat pockets and sportsmen forget to take guns out of bags after target practice or a trip to the skeet range, he said.

A 79-year-old woman was arrested Tuesday at Fort Lauderdale International Airport in Florida after a single-shot Colt Derringer and seven bullets were found in her tote bag.

The woman said she had placed the gun in a hollowed-out book in the bag months ago and had forgotten about it. She faces a penalty of up to five years in prison.

“That underscores the importance of the need to screen everyone,” TSA spokeswoman Yolanda Clark said. “This continues to be a significant problem at checkpoints across the country.”

The National Rifle Association (NRA) is teaming up with the TSA on a public service campaign to remind its members to include guns and bullets in last-minute travel checks and remove them from bags and coat pockets.

The NRA is running public service announcements and articles in its publications to educate readers on how to travel legally with weapons, which must be declared at the check-in counter. The weapon must be enclosed in a lockbox, and a key must be provided so screeners can check to ensure that the gun is not loaded.

“They have a very large number of hunters and sportsmen, and they have been very enthusiastic about placing articles, and their communication has helped us extend our reach,” Mr. Hatfield said.

“It’s as simple as emptying all your pockets and checking in the pocket zippers,” he said. “Most airlines will allow you to carry weapons in checked baggage, but it should be unloaded in a hard case” and lockbox.

Hunters and sportsmen also should check state laws and city ordinances at their destinations.

“You may be in compliance with the laws in the states you are departing, but you need to make sure your destination state also allows for the possession and transport of weapons,” Mr. Hatfield said.

More than 15 million prohibited items, including more than 2,000 guns, have been confiscated from passengers since the TSA took over screening responsibility in February 2002.

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