When packing for a flight, don’t bring the ‘Grandpa grenade’

Kim Bell
St. Louis Post-Dispatch

St. Louis – Be careful what you pack when you go the airport.

Officers with the Transportation Security Administration have stopped 50 firearms at checkpoints at St. Louis Lambert International Airport so far this year – and some odd weapons like an inert grenade and brass knuckles.

During the holiday travel periods, the number of weapons they intercept always spikes.

FILE - In this Thursday, June 21, 2018 photo, air passengers heading to their departure gates enter TSA pre-check before going through security screening at Orlando International Airport, in Orlando, Fla.

“Unfortunately, we do see an escalation in the number of guns during the holiday period, due to the increase in the sheer volume of travelers and also because some of the passengers do not fly very often and may not be focusing on what’s inside their bag when they head to the airport,” said Sari Koshetz, a TSA spokesperson.

Beyond guns, TSA has uncovered some unusual items.

One security screening lane was closed for about 30 minutes at St. Louis Lambert International Airport on Feb. 23 when a passenger packed what the TSA refers to as “Grandpa’s grenade” in a carry-on bag. It was inert.

Grenades, real or fake, aren’t allowed in carry-on or checked bags, the TSA said.

“Whenever we find grenades during security screening, our TSA officers need to call on our explosives specialists to evaluate them to determine if they are real or inert,” the TSA’s Jay Wagner said in one of his weekly blogs for the agency. “This takes time and can cause security to slow down or stop all together.”

Brass knuckles with a blade attachment were discovered at Lambert on Feb. 15.

And TSA officers found a hookah, a water pipe, that had been fashioned into a brass knuckles weapon, on Feb. 15 at Lambert.

TSA officers found two high-capacity magazines hidden in an infant’s toy at Orlando International Airport this month. The toy and the box were “made to appear to be factory sealed,” the TSA said. Local police confiscated the magazines, the TSA said.

“Our officers are very adept and well-trained at locating threat items that have been camouflaged as everyday items,” such as a stun gun that looks like a flashlight, Koshetz said.

The agency documents the weapons discovered at checkpoints. In a recent two-week stretch, TSA officers screened 31.7 million passengers nationwide from Nov. 4-17 and found 205 firearms in carry-on bags. Of the 205 firearms discovered, 176 were loaded and 72 had a round chambered.

For information on the proper way to travel with a firearm, read the Transporting Firearms and Ammunition page. Among the rules: Firearms must be unloaded and locked in a hard-sided container and transported as checked baggage only. Firearm parts such as magazines, clips and firing pins, are prohibited in carry-on baggage, but can be in checked baggage. Replica firearms, including firearm replicas that are toys, may be brought in checked baggage only.

Over the Thanksgiving holiday travel period, the busiest travel days are expected to be Wednesday and the Sunday after Thanksgiving. One travel tip: Pies, cakes and other baked goods are OK at the checkpoints.