More weapons caught at TSA checkpoints in 2017

Published Feb 15, 2018 at 4:00pm

Unless you’re a sworn, commissioned law enforcement officer with a specific need to do so -- note that caveat -- it’s illegal to carry a gun onto a commercial airplane in the United States.

We’re not talking about packing guns in unsecured areas of an airport terminal; most states permit that. We’re not talking about taking firearms along on a trip, unloaded and secured in checked baggage; federal law allows that. We’re talking about toting guns into the pressurized passenger compartment of an airliner, which is not only illegal but also stupidly dangerous.

Remember the climactic scene in “Goldfinger,” when Sean Connery as James Bond and Gert Frobe as the evil title character are battling for control of a pistol inside an airplane? The gun goes off; a bullet shatters a window; the cabin rapidly depressurizes; and Goldfinger is sucked out the window hole to his demise.

Hollywood actually got it right; according to the HowStuffWorks website, it’s exactly what would happen in real life to anyone sitting near the hole who wasn’t firmly buckled in. Everyone else would have to don oxygen masks quickly to avoid passing out from the thin atmosphere. If a bullet should penetrate a fuel tank in the plane’s fuselage or wing, well, the sky would certainly be lit up nicely.

However, those disastrous prospects -- or the possibility of up to 10 years in prison and a large fine -- aren’t enough to deter some folks.

According to Transportation Security Administration figures released recently, 3,957 firearms were found in carry-on bags at checkpoints at 239 U.S. airports last year, a 16.7 percent increase over 2016. That’s an average of 10.8 weapons per day and 76.1 per week.

Of those weapons, 84 percent were loaded, and close to 35 percent had a round in the chamber.

Many of those snared say they simply forgot they had that stuff, but that level of brain fade is scary.