More than 70,000 people are expected to pass through security checkpoints Monday at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, and officials advise them to pack plenty of patience — and leave all weapons behind.
That may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s a reminder that bears repeating in the wake of last week’s report in which the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) revealed that last year a record number of firearms were found in carry-on luggage that passengers brought through the screening process.
In all, agents nationwide confiscated 3,957 guns last year, up 17 percent from the 3,391 seized in 2016 and dramatically up from 660 confiscated in 2005. Last year’s total amounts to the interception of 11 firearms a day. Moreover, 84 percent of firearms confiscated were loaded and 35 percent of those had a round in the chamber.
MSP was not among the top 10 airports where the most firearms were discovered. The dubious distinction of being No. 1 belongs to Atlanta, where 245 guns were seized. Also making the list were: No. 2 Dallas-Fort Worth at 211, followed by Houston (142), Denver (118), Phoenix (115), Tampa (97), Orlando (94), Dallas’ Love Field (93), Nashville (89) and Seattle-Tacoma (75).
Numbers at MSP have been rising over the years: from 18 in 2014 to 38 in 2016 and 40 last year. So far this year, MSP screeners have busted two passengers for carrying guns through a checkpoint, according to the TSA.
In one sense, the numbers are astounding since rules banning guns on a plane have been in place for decades. Then again they are not, because more and more people are packing heat and forgetting that the airport is a different world.
“Because of permit to carry, it is legal to carry in so many states,” said MSP airport spokesman Patrick Hogan. “They forget it is in their bag.”
Passengers who experience a memory lapse get the shame of being pulled out of line and getting a stern talking-to from police. After that, there could be misdemeanor charges along with civil penalties of up to $13,066.
For the record, firearms can be transported on a commercial plane only if they are unloaded, packed in a locked, hard-sided case and in checked baggage, the TSA said.
Other no-nos include firearm components, realistic replica guns, pellet guns, BB guns, airsoft guns, brass knuckles, batons, stun guns and small pocketknives — to name a few. Carry these items and “you will miss your flight,” Hogan said.
Your trip through security could also be bogged down if you don’t follow the TSA’s 3-1-1 rule, which allows travelers to bring liquids, aerosols, gels and creams in containers of 3.4 ounces or less per item placed in one clear, quart-size plastic bag, one bag per traveler.
Lines at ticket counters and security are expected to be extremely long, so here is your post-Super Bowl departure guide as recommended by folks at MSP:
• Leave your hotel 5 hours before your flight.
• Turn in your rental car 4 hours ahead of flight time.
• Check in with your airline 3 hours in advance.
• Get in the security line 2 hours early.
• Be at your gate 1 hour before your flight leaves.
One more tip: Construction has limited the number of curbside drop-off points at Terminal 1. So use both the upper (departures) and lower (arrival) levels, Hogan said.
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