Comments

GEDJanuary 24, 2008 2:38 PM

I just flew down to one of our remote offices for work so I had my tools in my suitcase and transfered them to my backpack when I got down there. On the way back I forgot to transfer them back to my suitcase...oops screwdrivers, leatherman and other tools over the required inch limit...no problems getting through...I'm sure it happens everyday...

Better SolutionsJanuary 24, 2008 2:46 PM

That the $5/hour bureaucratic mentality hasn't changed in 300 years, despite hard-headed insistence to the contrary?

Rick AuricchioJanuary 24, 2008 2:55 PM

I always marvel at people forgetting they're carrying a weapon.

If I carried a gun, I would ALWAYS know I have it. I would ALWAYS know it was loaded. I would ALWAYS be ready to use it.

Why else carry a gun? Just for the ballast? Sheesh.

NateJanuary 24, 2008 3:10 PM

"White said that 14 guns were discovered at checkpoints around the country last week. On average, screeners find two guns a day, he said."

Also, he added, between 56 and 62 guns are found each month. They are still computing yearly gun-finding totals.

AnonymousJanuary 24, 2008 3:11 PM

@Rick re: carrying a weapon

A gun is one thing. I think I would have trouble forgetting I had one on me, and your point about there being no other purpose is valid.

However, guns aren't the only type of weapon. Quite a few architecture students I've known have come across the awkward moment where they get through metal detectors or security screening, and realize that they forgot to leave a rather large knife at home. What's the proper etiquette in these situations? Since fessing up can get you arrested, the optimal solution is to just keep quiet? So then, the purpose of all this security isn't to keep weapons out, it's just to look like you're doing something useful. Good enough for government work, I guess.

JKJanuary 24, 2008 3:33 PM

@Anonymous re: carrying a weapon

For some, carrying a weapon is as normal as putting their wallet in their pocket.

It's rather extreme, but (hopefully along similar lines)... would you remember to remove your wallet if a no wallets policy was in place?

bobJanuary 24, 2008 3:37 PM

I have had this discussion with several people. I cant see myself forgetting I am "packing" but If I did I would just keep going and hope that I was not discovered.

Similar thoughts if I found somethign already on an airliner. If, for example, I found a firearm under my seat cushion or in my seatback pocket I would just leave it alone, act like I never saw it and hope the people who put it there didnt see me finding it (further hoping that its not about to be used in some sort of exciting event on THIS flight, therefore also keeping an eye out for weird happenings which I might need to THWART using that gun. Then once I am safely out of the airport with my luggage at the other end, if it is a US destination, find a payphone in a crowded place somewhere far from the airport and call it in anonymously while hiding my face and wearing gloves.

Cause sure as the world if I report it to the aircrew or a cop at the airport the end result will be ME going to jail. They dont want the perp, they just want SOMEONE to fill the square with and I am handiest.

jmrJanuary 24, 2008 3:40 PM

As someone with a carry permit, I tell you that yeah, sometimes you -do- forget that you are carrying, but it's not in the way that you think. To people who don't own / use / like guns, they are a big deal. To people who use and understand them, they become fairly routine, and it's not so much forgetting to properly handle one but instead forgetting that they are not routine to the society surrounding me. This is especially true up here in Massachusetts.

AnonymousJanuary 24, 2008 3:46 PM

@jk

Yes, I've worked in places with policies prohibiting things that are otherwise normal daily carry items. As a matter of course, I need to be aware of what I'm carrying depending on function. However, everyone makes mistakes once and awhile. Which is why I thought the arrest was silly, and brought up an easier to picture analogy than forgetting to remove your gun when going to the airport.

And here I'd think "right to carry" people would direct their comments at Rick, like I did. I was trying to be rather sympathetic to the cause.

anonymous user 143January 24, 2008 3:47 PM

@Rick

Before I started carrying a gun, I thought there would be no way to forget that you have one. However, now that I've been carrying for two years, I can fully understand how this person forgot. I've become so accustomed to it that it's easy to not think about it. In fact, when I read this article, I reached down and touched my pocket just to check for my gun, because I hadn't noticed it all day.

AllenJanuary 24, 2008 3:48 PM

Why report it? Couldn't a person just walk out of the secure area and walk up to the airline ticket counter and see what they could to do check it? Then you get it back into the proper channels without risking the busy-work people from blowing a gasket.

JosephJanuary 24, 2008 4:00 PM

@Allen

"Couldn't a person just walk out of the secure area"

You know, I feel stupid that I didn't think of this before you mentioned it. You're right, why didn't the guy just leave the airport, figure out the correct way to take care of his gun (check it or mail it or whatever), and then go back in?

Rick AuricchioJanuary 24, 2008 4:11 PM

For those who carry, is the situation that you would immediately be aware of your gun in a potentially dangerous situation? Thus, waiting in a boring line at the airport isn't inherently dangerous, so you're relaxed and not aware you're carrying.

Never having handled a pistol, I'm just curious. All I know is not to point a loaded gun without intending to kill someone.

BryanJanuary 24, 2008 4:13 PM

RE: What is this supposed to teach?

Not to take your gun to the airport? I would have been disappointed if they didn't take action.

"What's that sir? You have a gun? oh, well.. just don't shoot anyone please. Have a nice day. Next!"

Smee JenkinsJanuary 24, 2008 4:18 PM

What is it supposed to teach?

He broke their security theater. That's what he's being punished for. Not for carrying a gun, but for making people scared after all this effort the TSA has made to provide the illusion of security.

nofunnyfarmformeJanuary 24, 2008 4:20 PM

@anonymous user 143: "In fact, when I read this article, I reached down and touched my pocket just to check for my gun, because I hadn't noticed it all day."

Did you check your other pocket to make sure the emergency cyanide capsules were still there? just in case you get caught?

Are you hoping some wench will snuggle up and ask the obvious question about being glad to see her?

Carry a gun so routinely you forget you have it == cop or idiot?

JasonJanuary 24, 2008 4:29 PM

My dad "carries" at all times.
According to him, the protocol when dealing with law enforcement is to tell them up front that you have a weapon.
You don't yell out, "I've got a gun!" or something stupid like that.
You comply with their wishes, keep your hands visible and let them know, "I am obligated to tell you that I have a licensed firearm in a holster on my belt" or whatever.

The article doesn't state ~what~ the guy said to TSA or ~how~ he said it.
The way it is worded makes it seem like it was more of a "my bad folks, I forgot I had my gun."
They called the police (which seems kind of odd -- you'd think they'd have a documented procedure on how to handle this situation: law-abiding citizen with a permit to carry his own licensed weapon forgets to leave it at home or stow it... guess not).

The message this action sends is that you better hope you don't make a mistake because if you do, you'll get arrested.
However, if you are clever and malicious (and don't ~tell~ anyone), you can get away with it.

ScottJanuary 24, 2008 4:39 PM

I actually agree with the response by the TSA/Police. To answer
"What is this supposed to teach?", it teaches that if you break a law (the article states there is a specific law that prohibits carrying a gun at the airport), you're held accountable, even if you admit to it and claim it was a mistake. If they didn't arrest the man, they wouldn't have been properly enforcing the law.

RoyJanuary 24, 2008 4:56 PM

The lesson is cleara: never, never, NEVER embarrass anyone with authority over you, no matter how far down they are in the pecking order. Keep in mind, in their barnyard, you are the chickenfeed.

yoshiJanuary 24, 2008 4:59 PM

I agree with others. The proper etiquette is to admit that you had the gun to the proper authorities. The response from the authorities is not consistent with how this is handled outside of an airport in other situations.

To Scott and others - what has been taught to us is NOT to tell nor TRUST the authorities in the airport as they appear to be incapable of treating anyone with any degree of respect and performing the proper action. They have a hammer and all they see are nails. Its as simple as that.

JJJanuary 24, 2008 5:00 PM

Honesty is the best policy, as lying to a federal employee gets you charged with a crime. Tell the truth when required, but NEVER EVER volunteer information that is not required.

TimHJanuary 24, 2008 5:01 PM

@Scott
To answer "What is this supposed to teach?", it teaches that airport security has an us/them mentality that regards the passengers are always part of the problem, never part of the solution.

It teaches, yet again, that attempts by the public to identify security problems - in this case someone identified himself and the procedure - lead to the messenger being identified as the problem.

Bruce - you might advise Kip Hawley next time you meet him that respect is a two-way road, and his organisation has a long way to go in that regard.

John RidleyJanuary 24, 2008 5:11 PM

This story certainly taught me something. Before reading it, I would have done exactly what this guy did; go back and turn report the error, expecting to go mail it to myself or something.
After having read it, if I ever find myself in that situation, I'll just go to my seat and fly with it.
I don't actually carry, but that's the lesson I've learned from this. Once you're past the checkpoint, just keep your mouth shut.

AndrewJanuary 24, 2008 5:11 PM

I was amused by the article. Less so by the comments here.

The man with the gun was cited and released, directed to appear in court to explain his misdemeanor. I'm sure the fact that he returned to the checkpoint will be taken into account in state court.

This is far nicer treatment than he would have received if "caught" with the firearm in the sterile area, on board the aircraft or in the airport at his destination. For one thing, the likelihood of Federal charges is far higher.

>>For those who carry, is the situation that you would immediately be aware of your gun in a potentially dangerous situation? Thus, waiting in a boring line at the airport isn't inherently dangerous, so you're relaxed and not aware you're carrying.

People who carry concealed routinely and have been trained to do so properly tend to experience the firearm as a natural extension of themselves. Are you aware of your watch? Your underwear? Your glasses? You'd notice if your underwear rode up, your watch fell off or your glasses slipped, but otherwise they are part of the background sensations.

In fact, the art of spotting concealed firearms depends on observing the suspect's behavior. Most illicit carries are in the waistband right side, in a pocket, or (less common) small of the back. Legal carry is often a shoulder holster or pocket gun (hammerless revolver).

I'm kind of amused that he got through TSA, clearly all the screeners at his station were having an off day. In the days of competence, before TSA, a "Security Exemplar" (imitation gun) would be run through each station weekly, and failing a gun test was immediate termination.

The entire reason this guy made it past TSA was BECAUSE he forgot he was carrying it. If he knew and decided to carry it anyway (illegal), he would have exhibited the nervousness cues, gun-tapping, change in stance etc. that screeners, some police and all Secret Service are trained to spot.

As for the lesson this is supposed to teach: firearms are serious business and a CCW permit holder should know better.

AnonymousJanuary 24, 2008 5:16 PM

...or rather, JJ's right: "Tell the truth when required, but NEVER EVER volunteer" The dude messed up by volunteering to cooperate with the authorities.

Bryan FeirJanuary 24, 2008 5:51 PM

@Roy:

Actually, the further down they are in the pecking order, the worse it is to embarrass them, in my experience. The guys at the bottom don't have anybody else to take out their frustrations on, after all...

GeorgeJanuary 24, 2008 6:08 PM

@TimH: Bruce - you might advise Kip Hawley next time you meet him that respect is a two-way road, and his organisation has a long way to go in that regard.

Bruce surely is aware that for officials in charge of anything that has to do with security or "law enforcement, the sort of "respect" they accrue by means of fear, intimidation, or humiliation is far more desirable than the normal sort of two-way respect that is earned. As far as the TSA is concerned, each and every person who goes anywhere near a checkpoint is a terrorist or a criminal who needs to be shown the arbitrary exercise of authority and certainly doesn't deserve anything like respect.

TimHJanuary 24, 2008 6:16 PM

@Andrew
Agreed, a CCW permit holder should know better.

But the lesson they're teaching is NOT to confess when you get through carrying contraband. This breaks the error correction system, and the DHS staff that let him through and/or the system that allowed him through remain uncorrected.

And what is worse - the guy carrying contraband, or the DHS letting him through? He COULD have been a hijacker. Do the DHS staff who failed get treated as if if they let through a hijacker? Is their mistake a criminal offence? No, to them it's a job from which they can get -merely- fired. The guy trying to help after admitting a mistake has to appear in court.

The problem here is there are two standards for DHS on one side, and us on the other. Let DHS staff who let through someone with a weapon get a misdemeanor offence each time. I think that then, fairly quickly, you'll have either a non-theatre security system OR nobody wanting to work for DHS.

Rick AuricchioJanuary 24, 2008 6:20 PM

Thanks, Andrew, for the enlightenment.

I agree that carrying further into the sterile area or onto the aircraft could be really nasty. It's too easy to be accidentally discovered and then have to answer to every authority.

How he got through the metal detector is a good question.

TimHJanuary 24, 2008 6:22 PM

@George: I agree with your assessment of the status quo. But will Mr Hawley agree with it, and if so will he commit to fixing it?

@Bruce: A side issue, but have you noticed that many airports split the security line between economy and business? So richer travellers skip the line. Yet we are all assessed the same DHS fee for the security check. The airlines should not be allowed to do that.

LeoJanuary 24, 2008 6:23 PM

The only lesson to be learned here is to obey the law. If he was carrying that gun under a permit the permit should be revoked because he obviously handled the gun irresponsibly. Or can I use the excuse that I'm just so used to driving that I forgot to pay attention to the speed limit the next time I get a speeding ticket?

How many people here report it to the police every time they speed or run a red light? Since when do people get a pass for confessing to breaking the law? As others have said, the smart thing would have been to leave the security area and then figure out how to deal with the gun legally. But that's not what he did. He committed a crime and confessed to it. How could they responsibly not cite him?

Finally, as Andrew mentioned, he was cited and released on a _misdemeanor_. I wouldn't be surprised if the penalty was somewhat harsher than a speeding ticket, but he's not facing a felony conviction and I doubt that he's facing prison time, unless he doesn't show up for his court date.

The TSA handled this correctly. The only thing they did wrong was not find the gun in the first place. I bet that he was charged under the very same law they would have charged him had they found the gun as they should have. (Some years ago a local, well known football coach was arrested when a rifle was found in his luggage by airport security. The local fans all whined about how he shouldn't have been arrested because it was obviously unintentional, but when it was all over the coach did the responsible thing and publicly admitted he'd made a stupid mistake by leaving the rifle in his luggage.)

Anyone who sees any lesson here other than don't carry a gun through airport security is just looking for excuses to whine about the TSA and is certainly not thinking about this in any rational way. Let me repeat Andrew's very valid point: "As for the lesson this is supposed to teach: firearms are serious business and a CCW permit holder should know better."

KanlyJanuary 24, 2008 6:33 PM

The lesson is the authorities will throw the book at you in an effort to mask their own incompetence.

Take the absurd case of Dr Haneef: A relative was involved in a terrywrist plot. The police and immigration minister decided he was guilty as hell, and when it turned out the guy knew nothing, all this time later they're still trying to throw the book at him.

http://www.theage.com.au/news/opinion/a-question-of-trust-in-our-protectors/2008/01/18/1200620209757.html
http://en.wikinews.org/wiki/Australia_drops_charges_against_Indian_doctor

statdetectiveJanuary 24, 2008 6:46 PM

I wonder what kind of success rate in finding guns is "very high?" We obviously have guns and other dangerous objects slip past. I suppose if the individual who is testing the security has a special badge that reads "TSA Security TESTER," there will be a very high success rate. They don't report the rate. There's only one inference. It's not very high and they don't want the public to know what the detection rate is. I would love to see the false positive and false negative rates for guns going through the TSA Checkpoints.

LeoJanuary 24, 2008 6:46 PM

Just to emphasize one point again - it was a misdemeanor. It is perfectly reasonable to have a law against taking a gun into the secure area of an airport. It's also perfectly reasonable for the law against unintentionally doing so to be a misdemeanor. There's a reason some crimes are misdemeanors and others felonies. It's also perfectly reasonable for someone to be cited or arrested when they commit a crime, whether they get caught in the act or simply confess. If he deserves leniency because he confessed that's the judge's responsibility, not the TSA's.

I just don't get the attitude that confessing to a crime should let you walk away, but that seems to be the basic excuse most people here are using.

TimHJanuary 24, 2008 6:50 PM

@Leo: To paraphrase Scott Perry, you and Andrew are simply agreeing that the process that deals with the perp is suitable and just.

You are not addressing the flawed process that let him through, and the lack of a corrective process to rectify the flaw.

The subtlety is that the process that deals with someone non-maliciously finding flaws in the security is dealt with as a wicked perp. This lack of discrimination encourages the general public to conceal systemic security failures. Surely that is a Bad Thing?

LeoJanuary 24, 2008 7:43 PM

@TimH: I'm assuming you missed this sentence in my post:

"I bet that he was charged under the very same law they would have charged him had they found the gun as they should have."

This is the thing, if it's reasonable for what this "perp" did to be a crime, regardless of how he did it, then it's reasonable for the TSA to treat it as a crime. Note also that the story states that the TSA screener was removed from security duties while this incident is investigated, so there is a corrective process, and it's being used. The "perp" will also get his day in court, which is how our legal system is supposed to work. It's just false to say there's no corrective process.

The only way you have an argument here is if you believe that carrying a gun into the secure area of an airport should be legal.

"This lack of discrimination encourages the general public to conceal systemic security failures."

There isn't a lack of discrimination. He was charged with a misdemeanor and released. If there was a lack of discrimination it would be a felony and the guy would have been hauled off to jail and required to put up bail, like a "wicked perp". He wasn't dealt with as a "wicked perp". He wasn't arrested and hauled away. He got a ticket. I suspect he even made his flight on time. How is that being treated like a "wicked perp"? When you say that there was no discrimination you assume that he would have been treated just the same had someone else seen him carrying the gun and reported him. I doubt that.

There's no "subtlety" here. There's just a lot of people wanting to justify criminal behavior, probably mostly because it involved a gun owner.

RobJanuary 24, 2008 7:53 PM

I have successfully smuggled a Swiss Army knife on board planes in order to open my son's baby formula en route (in Tetra Paks). Not really high crimes, but not a surprise either. You know stuff gets though all the time. The issue is what if they do catch it.
In response to the liquids ban/limit I keep joking that I'm going down to Costco and getting a 1 liter bottle of shampoo to carry on. Will I get arrested for trying? Or will I only get arrested if they miss it and I get through? Is it worse than a Swiss Army knife?

CipherChaosJanuary 24, 2008 8:16 PM

@Rick Auricchio:

I pretty much always have a tactical-type folding knife on me. They're completely legal where I live.

I agree with you, though - even though I carry it all the time, I always am aware I have it.

People who either are careless or negligent with weapons, are what give weapons a bad name.

John RidleyJanuary 24, 2008 8:23 PM

How do they know that their success rate at finding guns is "very high" - how do they know how many guns they missed? They MISSED them. Unless they are doing a complete strip search of everyone exiting the plane to make 100% sure they didn't miss something, they're just guessing.

SnarkJanuary 24, 2008 8:33 PM

"I wonder what kind of success rate in finding guns is 'very high'? We obviously have guns and other dangerous objects slip past."

Which is the point. We have NO IDEA how many guns etc. "slip past" because, duh, they've slipped past!

There's no possible way to measure the "success rate in finding guns".

TimHJanuary 24, 2008 9:15 PM

@Leo: I understand entirely your point that the perp broke the law, should be punished, and that the fact the security system failed is irrelevant.

Let's accept that a moot point - the guy gets punished, he has broken the law, and so on.

My argument is that most offenders this way are inadvertent. I am not saying that excuses them, but I am saying that they are not intending to hijack a plane.

However, some of the offenders discover security flaws. The practice of prosecuting inadvertent offenders tends to stop them confessing, and so the security flaw that let them through remains unpublicised. This is not useful - we want to find the flaws in situations which are not potential hijacks.

So, if there is no incentive for Joe Public to highlight security flaws, there needs to be another mechanism put in place to do so. Let the screening individual that failed AND the manager both share the misdemeanor charge as well as the perpetrator. Now the incentive is back on TSA to make the system work, or they lose staff in a hurry. Remember, too, that police who transgress can lose their pension. If the TSA security is not to be treated as a joke, then they should be accountable.

sirlaJanuary 24, 2008 10:09 PM

I second the "to stay the hell away from America" comment. Maybe if European tourism dropped from 9 million a year to less than 1 million and caused real economic damage, the U.S. would get the bloody picture. I wonder how many real terrorists have been fingerprinted and then caught?

CipherChaosJanuary 24, 2008 10:13 PM

@Rick Auricchio:

"All I know is not to point a loaded gun without intending to kill someone."

This is a good start, but not quite correct.

Never point *a gun* - regardless of whether loaded or not - at another person.

The premise is, you may not know for sure whether the gun is loaded or not.

"How he got through the metal detector is a good question."

This may not apply today, but it's just a matter of time before a gun and its ammo are made with all plastic/composite materials. I wonder how ape$--- things'll be then?

@JJ:
"Honesty is the best policy, as lying to a federal employee gets you charged with a crime."

This in itself, IMO, is pretty screwed up. Lying shouldn't be a crime unless it's under oath; like the secrecy provisions of the PATRIOT act, it's utter bollocks.

@Leo:
"I just don't get the attitude that confessing to a crime should let you walk away, but that seems to be the basic excuse most people here are using."

It's called mens rea - criminal intent.

This guy had no intent to commit the actus reus (illegal act); in fact, by pointing it out, he was trying to prevent further breaches of security.

I don't consider something a crime without mens rea.

NOTRJanuary 24, 2008 10:23 PM

Realizing he had carried a pistol through the TSA checkpoint he returned to the checkpoint to 'fess up'?

This behavior is illogical. Two choices really exist. Get on the flight, or skip it and go back to a place (home/car) you can stash it and try to still make the flight.

What did he really expect when he said to the TSA, "Oh, you missed this?"

Mister PaulJanuary 24, 2008 10:50 PM

Article: "We know this is not a systemic problem in that our testing indicates TSOs [Transportation Security Officers] have a very high success rate at finding firearms."

How do they know how many firearms they didn't find? Are they that sure that their "testing" is realistic and representative.

Luckily for him, he didn't have blinky lights on his shirt or he would have got drawn on.

Rick AuricchioJanuary 24, 2008 11:53 PM

@CiperChaos: "Never point *a gun* - regardless of whether loaded or not - at another person.
The premise is, you may not know for sure whether the gun is loaded or not."

Yes, my error in posting. You're absolutely right, of course. A gun should always be treated as loaded and ready to fire.

I'll occasionally see an episode of the old "Perry Mason" series where they're bandying about the gun in evidence. Pointing it all around at each other during the trial. Yikes!

EndielJanuary 25, 2008 12:02 AM

I must admit I'm a bit confused by the fuss about this. It sure seems like it was reasonably handled to me: The guy did something he shouldn't have done (albeit unintentionally, without a doubt). He admitted it, was cited, and went on his way. He wasn't (apparently) manhandled, abused, threatened, and unless the judge is an idiot, I'm guessing he'll pay a small fine and be done with it.

For those of you who suggest he shouldn't have called attention to what happened: SHAME ON YOU! This guy manned up, admitted his mistake, exposed the fact that there was a problem with the screening, and took his medicine. He did us all a service.

Let's examine a similar situation: You're driving home on a dark foggy night, and hit what you think is a nasty pothole. The next morning you hear that a small kid was hit in your neighborhood and find blood on your bumper. What do you do?

I know what *I'd* do: I'd call the police, explain what happened, and expect to be arrested. (Although admittedly, I'd probably call a lawyer first.)

Doing the right thing doesn't always mean that there are no consequences. It doesn't change the fact that it's the right thing to do.

PaeniteoJanuary 25, 2008 2:46 AM

@Rick Auricchio: "Never having handled a pistol, I'm just curious. All I know is not to point a loaded gun without intending to kill someone."

Please remove the 'loaded' from your rule.
Just don't point a gun at things you don't want to shoot - no matter whether you believe / are sure / are absolutely sure it is loaded or not.
Obviously, there are exceptions to this, e.g. cleaning. But if you never handled a gun, just KISS.

gaetanoJanuary 25, 2008 3:06 AM

Re: To stay the hell away from America?

Same thing happened a couple of years ago in italy where I was working. Guy remembered his (legally owned) gun just before climbing into the plane and told an attendant.
Result: he did not fly that day and got on the no-fly-list for ever!!! I do not know if any of the security officers involved suffered any kind of punishment on the other hand - in italy workers are very well protected by the law and unions...

gaetanoJanuary 25, 2008 3:06 AM

Re: To stay the hell away from America?

Same thing happened a couple of years ago in italy where I was working. Guy remembered his (legally owned) gun just before climbing into the plane and told an attendant.
Result: he did not fly that day and got on the no-fly-list for ever!!! I do not know if any of the security officers involved suffered any kind of punishment on the other hand - in italy workers are very well protected by the law and unions...

gregJanuary 25, 2008 3:08 AM

I forgot i had gun *Parts* In my bag. They picked it up in the Xray. Took me quite a while to convince the girl that she did not need to check if I was allowed to carry it on the plane. She let me post it.

But then this was NZ.

PKJanuary 25, 2008 4:44 AM

I once forgot that I had a largish knife in the inside pocket of my jacket. I remembered it just as I walked through the security screening metal detector. I have absolutely *NO IDEA* why the detector didn't react to 300grams of steel in my pocket. Perhaps it had something to do with the very thick winter jacket, who knows?

The lesson is: it's very easy to forget what you're carrying sometimes and it's relatively easy to pass the screening in airports.

ZaphodJanuary 25, 2008 4:49 AM

"Let's examine a similar situation: You're driving home on a dark foggy night, and hit what you think is a nasty pothole. The next morning you hear that a small kid was hit in your neighborhood and find blood on your bumper. What do you do?"

Detail clean the bumper?

Zaphod

averrosJanuary 25, 2008 6:01 AM

Zaphod n- never confuse a victimless non-crime (such as carrying a gun without intent to use it for anything but self-defense) with an actual crime which harmed a real victim.

As for the lesson, it is "never forget that the government and all its agents are nothing more than a band of robbers".

Act accordingly - avoid confrontation (they have a lot thugs with guns and no discernible morality) but feel free to break their "laws" to your advantage every time you feel safe. (Of course, one shouldn't harm other _people_ unless in self-defence - but this rule is routinely violated by the government).

MillionMilerJanuary 25, 2008 8:17 AM

I'm sure his shoes and TSA approved baggie were, however, thoroughly screened. What a joke.

JohnJanuary 25, 2008 8:53 AM

I work in law enforcement. I don't carry as part of my job, most of my colleagues do. So I did a survey "Are you constantly aware of your weapon?" The overwhelming answer is "No."

One guy made the analogy to a wallet. You carry your wallet every day. If asked, you know where you keep it. You reach for it when you need it. If someone else is reaching where you keep your wallet, you generally notice. Weapons are like this, but more so.

My colleagues also pointed out that for an infraction of this type the cop doesn't have a choice - he has to cite the offender.

BobJanuary 25, 2008 8:59 AM

@Sirla:

Don't need the tourists to stay away to damage US economy, the naked greed and incompetence of the financial community is doing a wonderful job of that all on their own.

Only problem is it's taking other parts of the world with it. One more reason to love our American cousins. Let's hope they get funding to take that wall their putting up around Mexico and finish the job - around the whole country! They'll feel safe, we'll be safe. Good trade-off in my books.

NostromoJanuary 25, 2008 9:57 AM

@snark: 'There's no possible way to measure the "success rate in finding guns".'

Actually there is more than one way. 1: You do a more thorough search of a random sample of people who passed the ordinary search.
2: You put plainclothes agents carrying guns into the security line and find out what fraction of them get caught.

derfJanuary 25, 2008 10:04 AM

We already know they miss 80% or more of the guns and bombs when they know the test is coming, so why would this be a surprise? What's laughable is the spokes-model response: "We know this is not a systemic problem in that our testing indicates TSOs have a very high success rate at finding firearms. Given the high degree of reliability that our TSOs can find even carefully concealed firearms...".

Who do they think she's fooling? Oh. Congress.

cdmillerJanuary 25, 2008 10:40 AM

This teaches:

1) A determined criminal or terrorist can easily take a firearm or other weapons past a Theatrical Security Agency check point.
2) Law abiding well intentioned citizens are punished at every opportunity.
3) The U.S. government is intentionally endangering the personal safety of it's law abiding citizens.

Rick AuricchioJanuary 25, 2008 11:29 AM

A corollary to cdmiller's observation:

It teaches that the vast majority of conventional weapons are not carried by those intending to use them to cause harm. Stopping those weapons at checkpoints just serves to disarm the average guy, who just wants to get on his flight.

Of course, nobody dares admit that everyday items can be used as weapons if the intent is there. Wait till we all have to submit to having our bare hands cut off to board a flight...

GeorgeJanuary 25, 2008 11:58 AM

@sirla: Maybe if European tourism dropped from 9 million a year to less than 1 million and caused real economic damage, the U.S. would get the bloody picture.

Actually, the DHS would consider that a highly desirable proof of their effectiveness. In addition to being unswervingly loyal to Bush and Cheney and being incorrigibly incompetent, DHS officials are also hearing-impaired. "Tourist" sounds just like "terrorist," so if they're successfully keeping both away from the Homeland they're doing a heck of a job!

BrettJanuary 25, 2008 3:15 PM

@Leo,
I have to agree. Initially I didn't but you are correct. It does matter that he confessed, he still broke the law. The cop giving me a speeding ticket probably would not buy "I forgot I was speeding". The judge in this case will decide on the punishment, very fair.

I do have to ask the TSA - with all the money spent how did they miss the gun. Did he not walk through the metal detectors? Or since he wansn't a 5 year old or and old lady they ignored him.

shoobe01January 25, 2008 3:27 PM

I accidentally got on a plane with a somewhat oversized knife (this is pre 9/11; they had limits, but not serious ones). The metal detector beeped slowly, is what we think, as I am standing there impatiently waiting for my coworker who followed to get wanded, while I chide him for the secondary screening. I did NOT point out to the aircrew that I had a big knife when I discovered it later, on the plane.


To point out how seriously the limits on knives were taken, when I had to get back home with the same knife, I mentioned it to the gate attendants (again, pre-TSA, so airline staff ran the bulk of the security). The nice lady got out a ruler, measured, found out it was over the limit and... let me have it anyway. Its not too far over, its clearly a pocketknife, and my bringing it forward apparently made them comfortable with me not being a hijacker.

This all seemed like a totally reasonable way to handle it.

Grey BirdJanuary 27, 2008 11:24 AM

@Leo Your speeding ticket analogy isn't exactly correct. It shouldn't be "...I'm just so used to driving that I forgot to pay attention to the speed limit the next time I get a speeding ticket?" It should be "I'm so used to _speeding_ that I forgot to pay attention to the speed limit..."

If you are used to driving the speed limit all of the time, or even most of the time, it becomes habit to pay attention to the speed limit signs and follow them. On my regular route to work I find that, without thinking of it, I tend to go the speed limit plus or minus a couple of mph. That is after retraining myself to not speed. When I sped a lot, it was habit and if I wasn't paying close attention it was pretty much guaranteed that I would be speeding.

A better analogy might be wearing a security badge off site. Where I work we wear security badges and are not supposed to wear them, or use them for ID, off site. It's pretty easy to forget that the badge is on when leaving and be in a store or at a gas station with the badge still displayed.

Other than that, I have to agree with your argument. Chances are that if he had been caught with the gun it wouldn't have been the misdemeanor part of the law that he was charged under but the felony part.

jayhJanuary 28, 2008 11:58 AM

I while back, while leaving on a trip, I changed my jacket for a lighter one at the last minute....

After passing through security I reached in my pocket and realized I was carrying a lockback hunting style knife. I did NOT report it, I went into a restroom and dropped it in the trash.

CipherChaosJanuary 30, 2008 3:19 AM

@jayh:

"After passing through security I reached in my pocket and realized I was carrying a lockback hunting style knife. I did NOT report it, I went into a restroom and dropped it in the trash."

Did you wipe your prints off of it, too? I know I would have.

CipherChaosJanuary 30, 2008 3:28 AM

@Endiel, @Zaphrod:

This is going to anger some of the more moral people among you, but I would clean the bumper carefully and forget it happened.

I'm sorry, but I wouldn't want to trust the criminal justice system with my future, over something I know I wasn't responsible for. I don't even have a qualm in my conscience about that.

The system is always looking for scapegoats; the hell if I'd want to be one.

In fact, I think that - sadly - that's the "moral" of this whole story: Honesty can actually be dangerous, in this degraded nation.

CavityJanuary 30, 2008 3:32 AM

@Nostromo

"Actually there is more than one way. 1: You do a more thorough search of a random sample of people who passed the ordinary search."

Great. Some government neanderthals putting their fingers up innocent people's asses as part of a "study."

PepeJanuary 30, 2008 2:36 PM

Have you read that part of the article where they say that their officers have a good rate of detection?
How can you know when you have a good rate of detection?
You don't know how many people goes undetected, so...
Oh! well, except for this guy who came back to say "I did it".

Oceania is at war with EastasiaJanuary 30, 2008 10:48 PM

I look "funny" enough to always get sent to the room with the big steel tables at customs, and so I've learned to be hyper-conscious of what is in my carry-on and I take pains to insure that there is no metal on me whatsoever. That said, I AWLAYS trip the metal detector. Maybe there's something in men's hair that does it, since I have quite an abundance growing out of my head.

It's interesting that so many of you get through with large amounts of sharp pointy metal, or even guns, yet I never get through when carrying none. Guess you fellas look less funny, but ironically are better armed (at least until I board the plane; see below). The wand never makes a sound near me, as it's probably not set up to register a false alert on command to justify further screening.

To avoid the roving goons who randomly take people aside within the secure area, I just find the one covering my gate area and subtly follow them around, never making eye contact in case they look my way. Being behind them, they have never looked my way, actually, and I have so far avoided the additional indignity. Just a tip.

Finally, I get on the plane and bend/twist/tear up a coke can into a decent knife able to cut the stringy entree with. And, if anybody acts weird, I can shank 'em with the Real Thing and save the day!

Maxwell Crain (ps)February 1, 2008 11:18 AM

So about two weeks ago my mother passed away in Mexico. She had been living down there for about 5 years. Every 6 months running up to the border to reset her visa. Aways she was cremated and I spent a day going to the county seat getting magic stamps and the consulate to get paperwork for the TSA and airlines saying that bag of powder in a sealed box was my mothers remains. Not once was I ever stopped as I passed through customs and then back thru TSA to board another flight to ask what was in the box. I was a bit amazed. Then again I flew 2 or 3 times with a forgotten Leatherman in a side pocket of my carry on so maybe I should not be.

timFebruary 26, 2008 3:58 PM

This just happened to me and the hearing is pending. They can't just let you leave even if you're properly permited and have no record as is my case. I had put it in a bag going to the range and then grabed the same bag to travel loaded with electronic chargers, camera, Ipod etc. and since its a miniature size in a black sleave it blended in with everything elseso I missed it. Anyone out there have any advise re: defense or legal options to get this favorably resolved? What are the penalties?

Leave a comment

Allowed HTML: <a href="URL"> • <em> <cite> <i> • <strong> <b> • <sub> <sup> • <ul> <ol> <li> • <blockquote> <pre>

Photo of Bruce Schneier by Per Ervland.

Schneier on Security is a personal website. Opinions expressed are not necessarily those of Co3 Systems, Inc..