The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has a blog. In an entry entitled Guns Are No Fun at the Checkpoint, the agency reports that “From time to time, things show up at airports that cause us to scratch our heads, especially almost nine years after 9/11. On average, our officers find about two guns a day at checkpoints. Yesterday must not have been an average day, because 10 guns were found in various checkpoints around the country, well above the norm. When one of our officers tells a passenger that they’ve found a firearm in their bag, the most common response is that the person had no idea it was in there. One man even threw his wife under the bus and claimed she must have left it in there when she was packing his bag.” Not literally, of course. I think. Anyway, the TSA wants you to know that . . .
. . . in case you’re wondering, the “I didn’t know it was in the bag” excuse works just about as well at the checkpoint as “The dog ate my homework” worked with your high school teacher.
Whether or not the gun was put in the bag intentionally, TSOs are required to contact law enforcement immediately. In addition to potentially missing their flight, passengers could have their gun confiscated and/or face criminal charges. A fine from TSA is also possible.
As commentator Gunner asks, huh?
Do your administrative search rights allow you to levy fines as well?
What checks and balances are in place?
Can Joe or Sally blue-shirt fine you, or is there some sort of due process?
Is this a case of TSA just blowing more smoke in its ongoing effort to shows its importance?
How does one appeal a TSA fine?
First of all, the TAS blog’s stern zero tolerance warning doesn’t jibe with its official, more conciliatory tone re: inadvertent firearms violations.
TSA recognizes that most passengers who carry prohibited items do so without any ill intent. TSA does not impose fines on the vast number of passengers who inadvertently carry prohibited items. Dealing with any prohibited item, however, adds time to the screening process both for the traveler who brought the item and for other travelers as well. Some items pose such a risk to the traveling public and the screening work force that TSA will consider imposing a fine on the traveler.
Second, of all, yes, Virginia, they can fine your ass.
This policy directive provides sanction guidance for imposing civil penalties of up to $25,000 per violation for aircraft operators and up to $10,000 per violation for all other persons, including individuals, when a determination is made that civil penalty enforcement action should be taken.
Oh wait. The Enforcement Sanctions Guidance Policy [click here to download pdf] reveals that it’s not quite as bad as that. Forget to leave the loaded gat at home at you’re looking at a $1000 to $2000 fine and a “criminal referral.” Put a firearm in your luggage without declaring it or packing it properly, and the TSA will ding you for $500 to $1000, without calling the real cops.
Hang on; that’s just a guideline . . .
This sanction guidance provides agency enforcement personnel with guidance in selecting appropriate sanctions for civil penalty enforcement actions and to promote consistency in enforcement of TSA regulations; it does not restrict TSA from proposing higher penalties or penalties for violations not listed in the Sanction Guidance Table.
As for due process or the right to appeal the fine, the TSA is curiously silent on that point. And if the TSA fines you and the police fine you, isn’t that double jeopardy? Once again, as with the Hunt for an ATF Director, it seems that America has too many law enforcement agencies.
[Click here for the TSA’s webpage on traveling with firearms.]