By LISA MONTI
The Transportation Security Administration wants to remind you that if you’re flying during the busy holiday season, please leave your guns, grenades and martial arts tools at home.
TSA already this year has collected 400 pounds of prohibited items that passengers brought to the security checkpoint at Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport, and officials expect to collect more there and at other airports before the year is over.
With the heavy holiday traffic just ahead, TSA is reminding travelers to know the rules and pack accordingly, especially when it comes to weapons, ammo and the like.
TSA officers across Mississippi have stopped many guns – most of them loaded – at airport security checkpoints, said TSA spokeswoman Sari Koshetz at a recent press conference at the Gulfport airport.
She stood next to a table and boxes filled with forbidden, forgotten or forsaken items, including hammers, horse shoes, knives, an antique iron, a weighted juggling pin and full sets of keys.
“It might be obvious but do not bring your grenades either in your carry on or in your checked bag,” she said. Even a replica is prohibited. “Someone could hold it up and create havoc,” Koshetz said.
Recently, TSA discovered a grenade in a checked bag belonging to a service member returning from a military exercise. Fortunately an explosives expert was nearby and mitigated the situation without TSA having to evacuate the aircraft. “It’s something that happens frequently across the country,” she said. Stun guns are a particular problem, she added.
Travelers are allowed to bring unloaded firearms but they must be declared at the checkout counter and locked in a hard-sided container. Violators could be fined up to $11,000 and face possible arrest.
The penalty for carrying martial arts tools and knives starts at $250.
And it’s not just weapons TSA wants travelers to be mindful of. Items such as large metal jewelry can be problematic for passengers trying to get through security searches and scans.
TSA differentiates between confiscated items and property that is “voluntarily abandoned,” Koshetz said. If an item is found at the checkpoint that isn’t permitted in the cabin, owners have the options to mail it back home, return it to their parked car or place it in a checked bag.
Another category of forbidden items is hazardous material. TSA this year collected several gallons of flammable material, pepper spray, flares and matches from travelers in Gulfport.
In the lost-and found category, so far this year, about 200 items have been left behind at Gulfport-Biloxi, she said, including 41 pieces of jewelry, 21 credit cards or licenses, 13 thumb drives, four cellphones, 11 laptops or iPads, 38 items of clothing and three headphones.
TSA asks travelers to keep the security lines moving by doing a few simple things before leaving home, like packing liquids and creams according to the 3-1-1 rule. In line, travelers should take items out of their pockets and secure items in carry ons so nothing is left behind in the bins. If you’re traveling with gifts, opt for gift bags instead of wrapping.
Another TSA tip: if you haven’t used your suitcase in a while, unpack it before you pack in case something left over from, say, a road trip that might trip you up in the security line.
To be on the safe side, go to the TSA website (tsa.gov) for rules on traveling with tools, firearms, food, sharp objects, self defense items and explosives and flammables.
And get to the airport early.