A security screener examines passenger belongings at one of Hartsfield-Jackson’s checkpoints in May. JOHN SPINK / JSPINK@AJC.COM
Photo: John Spink
Photo: John Spink

Atlanta airport leads nation in seized guns

Hartsfield-Jackson International airport leads the nation in guns caught at checkpoints for the year through August, with Dallas-Fort Worth International closely behind.

A total of 126 guns were discovered at Atlanta airport security checkpoints in the first eight months of the year, compared with 124 at Dallas-Fort Worth, according to the Transportation Security Administration.

Last year, 144 guns were caught at Atlanta airport security checkpoints, and it is ahead of that pace this year.

Although Hartsfield-Jackson is the world’s busiest airport, it is not the busiest for passenger screening because a majority are connecting and don’t go through checkpoints in Atlanta.

Mark Trice, a TSA explosives expert at the airport, said while plenty of contraband items such as guns, knives and replica grenades have been caught at Hartsfield-Jackson, none were carried by passengers suspected of ill intent.

Trice led a TSA nedia briefing and demonstration at the airport Friday and said that in the wake of bombings in New York and New Jersey the terrorist threat is increasing and that checks of travelers’ belongings, from shoes to liquids, are crucial.

He said one of his team’s major responsibilities is “replicating and anticipating what the next threats may be.”

TSA uses replicas to show how explosives can be hidden inside shoes, in water bottles and in laptops, based on attempted terrorist attacks by “shoe bomber” Richard Reid in 2001, a blocked terrorist plot in 2006 and a laptop bomb on a Somali airliner earlier this year. The replicas are used during screener training, showing how the hidden items display on X-ray machines or how they can be detected during passenger screening.

“Nationally and globally, it’s a serious problem,” Trice said. “For the foreseeable future, these threats are going to be around for a while.”

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