TSA finds guns, tasers and knives at Charlotte airport

This year is set to become a banner year for the number of firearms found at TSA checkpoints at Charlotte Douglas International Airport, according to Transportation Security Administration officials.

On Thursday alone, TSA agents at CLT arrested another passenger traveling with a gun, bringing the year’s total to 62 guns found at security checkpoints, the TSA spokesperson said, Mark Howell.

This already exceeds the total number of weapons found last year (55 weapons) – although passenger traffic was much lower than due to the coronavirus pandemic, Howell said.

This year is also on track to overtake 2019 – before the COVID-19 pandemic hits North Carolina. In 2019, TSA agents found 74 guns, he said.

And 2021 is on track to surpass the previous record of weapons found at CLT: 76 firearms in 2018, Howell said.

TSA agents also collected a number of other prohibited items this year, including knives, sledgehammers, stun guns and brass knuckles.

“We get hundreds of pounds of banned items per month,” Howell said.

And CLT accounts for over 40% of firearms found at North Carolina airports this year. From January to July 31, some 149 firearms were found at airports across the state, Howell said.

Hannah smoot

Disguised weapons

Prohibited items include a number of things disguised to look like everyday items – from a stun gun disguised as a cell phone, another stun gun disguised as a flashlight, a cane with a screw-on hood concealing a knife and a knife disguised as a comb child.

Some people may carry these items with them on a daily basis and forget to leave them at home, Howell said.

Therefore, passengers should be very careful to search their luggage before leaving for the airport.

Screenshot 06-08-21 at 1.26.32 PM.png
TSA agent Karl McKinney shows off a stun gun disguised as a phone. The item was confiscated by the TSA at Charlotte Douglas International Airport. Hannah smoot

And airports are seeing an increase in the number of travelers for the first time this year, due to the low prices of some tickets, Howell said.

These people should make sure to research what is allowed and what is not allowed to go through a TSA checkpoint, he said. More details on prohibited items are available on the TSA website.

What happens when someone brings a gun to the airport?

About 80% to 90% of the guns found by TSA agents are loaded, Howell said.

It is therefore a security problem for the agents. TSA officers leave the guns at the checkpoint until law enforcement intervenes to remove the passenger and the gun, Howell said.

Bringing a gun to the airport can charge you up to $ 13,910 in civil penalties. Hannah smoot

Bringing a gun to the airport can also cause a big delay for other passengers waiting in the security lines.

And bringing a gun to the airport can get expensive too – it could cost you up to $ 13,910 in civil penalties, Howell said.

Increased travel

Charlotte Airport saw a sharp drop in passenger traffic when the coronavirus pandemic hit North Carolina in early 2020. But travelers have largely returned to the airport to near pre-pandemic levels.

“As summer draws to a close, people are trying to get out and travel after being locked up in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Howell said.

He recommends returning passengers to the airport to arrive at least two hours before their flight to avoid delays.

In June, the most recent month of passenger data available, more than 2.1 million people boarded planes at Charlotte Airport – a sharp increase from 783,600 people in June 2020, according to CLT figures.

June’s total in 2021 was not far behind the total number of passengers boarding planes at CLT for the same month in 2019 – before the coronavirus pandemic. That month, nearly 2.2 million people boarded planes at CLT.

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Hannah Smoot covers business in Charlotte, focusing on healthcare, aviation and sports. She has been covering COVID-19 in North Carolina since March 2020. She previously covered money and power at the Rock Hill Herald in South Carolina and is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

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