TSA finding more guns on TIA passengers

- Heading into spring break, one of the busiest travel seasons of the year at Tampa International Airport, the TSA is staying alert as thousands of additional passengers head through its security checkpoints.

TSA officials said passenger mistakes often account for delays during the security check process.

Last month, TSA workers found a large amount of guns on passengers attempting to board planes.

“Invariably what we hear is, ‘I forgot it was in the bag,' or 'I forgot it was actually on the person,’” explained Lee Kair, Director of TSA at Tampa's airport.

In 2015, Tampa TSA officials found 49 guns on passengers or in passengers’ bags. This year, there has been an increase.

"Just in January, we had 10 firearms. If we stay consistent on that monthly rate, we will be in the top three [airports] next year,” said Kair.

The cause of the increase is unclear, according to TSA officials.

Kair said full body x-ray scanners are one of the most important devices crews use to detect weapons or any other prohibited items on passengers. The scanners can be set off by something as small as an aspirin, but made from prohibited materials. 

TSA workers are responsible for checking the luggage as well. They scan hundreds of thousands of bags daily.

Any items appearing suspicious are taken to an explosive trace detection machine. It allows workers to swab the interior and exterior of a bag, later running the swabs through the machine, to check for traces of dangerous materials.

Before passengers even get to the checkpoint, members of the TSA K-9 Unit are roaming the lines to sniff bags.

“He’s looking for explosive odor. Our dogs are trained on multiple different types of explosive odor. What happens is when people walk, that odor can push in front or behind them,” said Brandy Smith, an Inspector with the TSA K-9 Unit.

Smith’s dog, Guiness is a 7-year-old Labrador mix and a favorable breed for the TSA, because the dogs are viewed as being less intimidating to passengers.

The TSA is advising passengers to check with their airline in advance of their flight to know what items are prohibited at the checkpoint - before heading to the airport in the coming months.

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