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January 26 2016

TSA Confiscates Thousands of Guns, Grenades, and a Chihuahua

Patrice J. Lee

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) had a busy year in 2015. Between harassing passengers, TSA agents managed to confiscate more than 2,600 guns from carry-on bags and a bevy of dangerous or odd items.

According to its 2015 Year in Review, some 2,653 guns were discovered, a 20-percent increase from 2014 but a 136 percent increase from 2010. Over eight in ten of firearms were loaded.

The top four airports with firearm discoveries were Dallas/Fort Worth International (153 firearms), Atlanta International (144), Houston (100), and Denver International (90). These are not too surprising given that three of the four are the busiest airports in the nation.

Other dangerous items were discovered such as grenades, knives, fireworks, and swords. Then there were the odd items like a sickle and spear gun in Salt Lake City, a meat slicer in Southwest Florida, a cannonball in Lexington, ninja climbing claws in Savannah, and bear mace across the country. Even worse, a Chuhuahua was discovered in a checked bag. Apparently, the dog hopped into the bag while its owner was packing. Or that was the story we are told.

It's unclear why there was an increase in weapons confiscated. It may be that they are getting better at detecting these items. It could also be that 40 million more passengers flew last year than in 2014 raising the incidence of weapons turning up as some passengers forgot these items were in their luggage. It may also be that people are more afraid and want their guns while flying.   

This report is full of fun pictures and vanity metrics, but it doesn’t negate the fact that last year, TSA agents failed to identify explosives in 90 percent of the tests conducted by undercover agents. And it failed ensuing security tests last fall.

Perhaps that’s why they are enlisting canines with better noses for explosives than screening machines to help. The Washington Post reports:

Five years ago, the TSA put its dogs on a new beat: passenger screening. More than 140 of the canines preside over security checkpoints at over 35 airports. By year’s end, the agency aims to more than double the number of furry participants and expand the program to more than 40 facilities.

The canines’ job is twofold. They seek out bomb-making materials on moving targets (fed-speak for “people”), a gotcha that could require further investigation by TSA officials. They also help clear passengers for PreCheck, the TSA program for low-risk travelers.

“We have cut back on general, random real-time threat assessment,” said Timberlake, referring to the previously arbitrary selection of passengers for the fast lane. “These dogs are helping people get expedited screening.”

“They’re finding stuff all the time,” said Timberlake, who wore a black shirt with a TSA K-9 logo, “so we know they’re working and not just looking cute.”

At least someone is working at the airport for our security. It may just be the bomb-sniffing pouch next to you in the line. Fido may be a government employee, but he doesn't know it, so he still does his job. It is time to consider a privatized TSA. 

Independent Women's Forum is an educational 501(c)(3) dedicated to developing and advancing policies that aren’t just well intended, but actually enhance people’s freedom, choices, and opportunities. IWF is the sister organization of the Independent Women’s Voice.​
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