The nation's extensive counterterrorism efforts since the 9/11 attacks have resulted in a hodgepodge of policies concerning the treatment of people caught with guns at the nation's airports, according to a report by the Orlando Sentinel
For instance, travelers carrying a weapon — concealed or not, whether carrying a permit for it or not — are most likely to be arrested at airports in Orlando, Atlanta, Dallas, and Chicago, the newspaper reports.
But that's not necessarily the case at airports in Jacksonville, Phoenix, and Denver.
"Guns are banned from commercial air travel because of legitimate concerns over the potential for mass-casualty incidents like a terrorist attack or the shooting last fall" at Los Angeles International Airport, David Borer, general counsel for the American Federation of Government Employees, told the Sentinel.
The organization represents the more than 50,000 employees of the Transportation Security Administration, the federal agency charged with airport security.
The TSA does not control who gets arrested, national spokesman Ross Feinstein, told the Sentinel. Those decisions are made by the federal and local law-enforcement agencies that police the airports.
"It strains credibility when 40 to 50 people a week show up with guns at the security checkpoint and then say 'I forgot,' " Borer said, referring to a common response given by those caught with weapons.
"They didn't forget their ticket. They didn't forget their pants," Borer continued. "They've been on notice for over 12 years that guns are not permitted — and it's time they be held responsible for violating the law."
The Sentinel examined arrest policies and data from last year at 15 of the nation's 448 airports.
The report found that airport gun cases rose by 20 percent last year, when 1,813 travelers were caught with weapons. The arrests reflected a national increase in people obtaining permits for concealed weapons.
At some airports, police generally ask travelers to return firearms to their vehicles or give them to non-traveling companions, the paper reports.
But other agencies leave those decisions to state or federal prosecutors, unless the passenger is obviously trying to bring a gun aboard a plane, said Duane McGray, executive director of the Airport Law Enforcement Agencies Network.
"U.S. attorneys are not going to take these cases unless there's blood on the ground," he said. "They just don't have the resources."
State prosecutors routinely decline as well, generally for the same reason, McGray told the Sentinel.
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