It is a common occurrence these days to be held up in the airport screening line because someone forgot to remove their water bottle or shampoo bottle or forgot to put their laptop in a separate container. But increasingly, screeners for the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) are detaining travelers for forgetting to remove their guns.

Gun confiscations are clearly on the rise, having reached approximately 2,200 last year alone. The traveler’s usual response is that they simply forget to remove their firearm and law enforcement officials have said that this trend is on the rise because more people are legally carrying concealed handguns for self-protection. However, with 2 major airports in the NYC area, and New York State having some of the strictest gun laws in the country, many passengers with permits from other states are being prosecuted for forgetting to leave their guns at home.

The majority of guns were seized in airports located in “gun-friendly” states, such as Dallas Fort-Worth International Airport, Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, and Fort-Lauderdale-Hollywood Airport in Florida. However, just last year alone, there were a combined 12 incidents and JFK, La Guardia, and Newark Liberty airports in New York and New Jersey, where concealed-carry licenses are much harder to get. Also, since many guns are confiscated by airline authorities before the passenger makes it to TSA screeners, the number of travelers stopped in NYC is much higher. A spokesman from the Queens District Attorney’s Office said that their office sees around 50 cases per year.

One such incident involved a 94-year-old Brooklyn man who attempted to go through security with a .38 pistol strapped to the small of his back. He surrendered his gun and since he had a permit for the weapon, so he was not arrested. However, most offenders caught trying to bring their weapon onto a plane in New York or New Jersey are travelers who have permits from other states. Since New York does not grant reciprocity, these people were taken off to jail. Under New York Penal Law Section 265.03, a person who possesses a loaded forearm outside of their home or place of business can be charged with Criminal Possession of a Weapon in the Second Degree, a Class C Violent Felony, punishable by a minimum of 3 ½ and a maximum of 15 years in jail. Possession of an unloaded firearm is considered a misdemeanor. However, a gun is considered loaded even if the ammo is not actually inside the chamber, but simply possessed by the individual at the same time

The problem here stems from ignorance – many people do not know their vulnerability to being prosecuted by local laws. In many cases, travelers actually declared their guns and offered them up in locked boxes at check in counters. The issue is that weapons become contraband the moment they land in New York, so the airlines have no choice but to notify the police. In contrast, if you are caught at a security checkpoint with a firearm in Georgia or Texas, it is not unusual for the passenger to be told to leave the gun in their car.

While many defense attorneys say that a vast majority of weapons cases at airports were honest mistakes, advocates of stricter gun laws said the number of incidents was alarming. A solution to this problem, among many others, would be consistent gun regulations across all 50 states.

Source: The New York Times

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