[Guest post by DRJ]
Distressing news from Seattle:
“Handguns, stored in luggage, have been disappearing from some major airports, including here at Sea-Tac. That means, firearms, and at times, ammunition are loose in secure areas with direct access to passenger jets.
If you want to take your .357 Magnum revolver from Seattle on vacation with you (to say) Los Angeles, airlines allow it, but it has to go into the belly of the jet along with your luggage. However, KIRO Team 7 Investigators discover that criminals on the tarmac just might nab it before it arrives at its destination.
It’s fair to say Ben Peterson is comfortable around guns. He grew up hunting and recently spent a tour in Iraq as a medic for the 7th Marines. The last time he flew from Seattle home to Omaha, all his luggage arrived just fine, but there was an empty hole in one of his cases. Peterson told Investigative Reporter Chris Halsne, “The pistol was just flat out gone!”
Police reports show Peterson was missing a compact 9 millimeter Taurus and 15 round clip, which disappeared after Peterson handed the locked weapon to TSA employees for a special luggage inspection. He lost a lot of sleep worrying about who stole it and what it would be used for. Then a call came from a King County detective. “It surprised me. I was extremely shocked. The idea that it had gone to being taken at an airport to used in a gang shooting in a period of four months or so,” said Peterson.”
Peterson’s stolen gun wasn’t an isolated case at Sea-Tac:
“We found five weapons reported taken from luggage at Sea-Tac in three years. Police records show that (now -fired) Alaska Airlines baggage handler Vincent Hereld Young stole some Beretta pistols. During an unrelated police matter, he got caught with them weeks later, confessing he just “covered the (gun) case with his coat — placed it inside his personal tote bag — and after work walked across the street.”
Port of Seattle Police Captain Ken Irwin admits he is concerned about disappearing weapons. “Yes. We do have issues or times where weapons that have been declared have ended up missing when the bag gets to its destination,” said Irwin.
The problem isn’t just in Seattle:
“Finding out exactly how many handguns are missing from luggage after they were checked into secure areas of airports nationwide has been a challenge. So far, KIRO Team 7 Investigators tracked at least 34 handguns presumed stolen, including 10 guns missing from LAX in Los Angeles, three in Portland, three in Tampa, and two each in San Antonio and Chicago O’Hare. Oakland, Fort Lauderdale, Miami, and Washington D.C. Dulles and Ronald Reagan airports reported thieves stealing handguns in secure areas of the airport as well.
The Department of Homeland Security has a database of all gun theft reports for all airports, but so far has refused to provide us with it. Justice Department sources tell us it contains more than 100 reports filed since 9/11.
Experts are concerned:
“National security experts Robert Ramsey and Mark Solomon are alarmed by our findings, agreeing “there’s obviously a problem.” They say terrorists are patient. It means nothing for them to work a job inside an airport for years, or to pay a criminal with access lots of money to stash a weapon inside secure areas.
Ramsey was candid about the potential national security threat. “If I was going to mount an operation against an aircraft — that’s where I’d be looking.”
Theft victim Ben Peterson wonders when airport security will wake up to that potential threat. “Given the level of security exercises at airports, I expected, between that conveyer belt and loading it into the aircraft, there would be better measures in place,” said Peterson.
Federal rules indicate gun owners should lock their weapon cases before they go on a passenger jet. However, we found in dozens of reports that TSA employees asked gun owners to leave one side of their case unlocked, so they could slide some paperwork inside.”
I know airlines have problems with missing luggage but this is a security issue that should be resolved. Wake up, TSA and Homeland Security.