The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

State and Nation

July 2, 2013

More air passengers show up with guns

(Continued)

The most common reason people say they carry guns is for protection, so it also makes sense that most of the guns intercepted by TSA are loaded, Taylor said. Many gun owners keep their weapons loaded so they're ready if needed, he said.

Even so, Taylor said he finds it hard to believe airline passengers forget they're carrying guns.

"My wife and I check on things like eye drops and Chapstick to see if we're allowed to take them on a plane, so it's a little difficult to imagine that you aren't checking the policies about your loaded firearm before you get to the airport," he said.

Occasionally passengers stopped by TSA are people who are used to carrying guns because they work in law enforcement, security or the military, but that doesn't appear to be the case most of the time.

Robert Spitzer, an expert on gun policy and gun rights, theorizes that for some, the "I forgot" answer is an excuse, "just like somebody who walks out of a store with an unpaid-for item in their pocket. The first thing that person will say is, 'I forgot.' Do people forget sometimes? Sure they do. But are there also people who try to shoplift to get away with something? Sure there are, and I think that's no less true with guns."

Eighty-five percent of the guns intercepted last year were loaded. The most common type of gun was a .38-caliber pistol.

Airports in the South and the West, where the American gun culture is strongest, had the greatest number of guns intercepted, according to TSA data.

Of the 12 airports with the most guns last year, five are in Texas: Dallas-Fort Worth International, 80 guns; George Bush Intercontinental in Houston, 52; Dallas Love Field, 37; William P. Hobby in Houston, 35, and Austin-Bergstrom International, 33. Hartsfield-Jackson in Atlanta had the most for any airport, at 96. Others include Phoenix Sky Harbor, 54; Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International in Florida, 42; Denver International, 39; Seattle-Tacoma International, 37; Orlando International Airport in Florida, 36, and Tampa International in Florida, 33.

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