The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Thursday December 2nd

RDU airport sees an increase in firearms in carry-on luggage

That statistic has since risen to 73 percent following the discovery of another illegally carried firearm Wednesday.

“While no one should try to bring a gun through airport security, an increase from 30 guns in luggage at RDU last year to 37 so far this year, out of about 10 million travelers, is not exactly an epidemic,” said Jeffrey Welty, associate professor in the UNC School of Government and expert on firearm regulation, in an email.

As of Wednesday, the amount of firearms found rose to 38.

These incidents often happen by accident because passengers are unaware of the items in their carry-on luggage, said Beth Walker, the federal security director of the RDU airport TSA.

“When we do discover a firearm at the checkpoint, that about 98 percent of those passengers say they forgot that it was in their carry-on,” she said.

The consequences for passengers range from an encounter with law enforcement to arrest or even a civil penalty of up to $11,000 per incident, she said.

“None of those guns seem to have been misused, and TSA itself has stated that most incidents involve inadvertent oversights rather than intentional efforts to circumvent federal law,” Welty said.

The increase in firearm presence in carry-on bags is nationwide, Walker said.

Will Rierson, a student at UNC, said it is good that security measures are catching the guns coming through.

“I don’t feel any less safe. In fact, when it comes to folks that are carrying their personal firearms and left behind, I understand that it’s a mistake,” he said.

Former Board of Governors Chairperson John Fennebresque was arrested in February after he forgot to remove a firearm from his luggage.

“Our intention with this media outreach that was conducted on Tuesday is to try the best we can to get our message out there as a reminder to passengers,” Walker said.

In terms of raising further awareness, RDU airport’s website contains links to TSA pages with more information on airport security and safety.

Walker said the TSA was unsure of how many people have seen information from the Tuesday event.

The TSA precheck is another way to increase awareness for safety precautions. The program allows passengers to go through security faster by screening them prior to flights.

Walker said preventing situations where passengers and TSA staff could injure themselves is important.

“Our hope is that by getting the message out to the public and asking them to please double-check the contents of their carry-on prior to coming into the airport that it helps,” Walker said.


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