TSA: Please don’t pack knives, guns in carry-on bag

May 16, 2019

One pen-sized flare, two cans of bear spray, 18 knives, a bright pink stun gun, eight bullets, two martial arts kubatons, a few gun magazines, a slingshot and two jars of huckleberry jam.

What do all of these have in common?

They are items passengers recently had to surrendered at Glacier Park International Airport in order to board a plane. The mash-up of both outright dangerous and unsuspecting items are only some of the more than four dozen prohibited pieces left behind by passengers during the first two weeks of May.

For many of these items, passengers claimed they forgot it was in their possession, while some say they recalled placing it in their checked luggage instead. And others have maintained the steak they order in first class on the airplane will require a sharp and normal-sized kitchen knife in order to cut it.

According to airport Security Manager Derrick Salmela, last year Transportation Security Administration (TSA) employees at Glacier Park International collect about 25 to 30 pounds of prohibited items per month. However, in the busier summer stretch, that amount can double. Airport officials say it isn’t unusual for TSA employees to collect knives, bear spray and other items at the airport on a daily basis.

“I can tell you that in the seven years that I’ve worked here, every year TSA finds more and more firearms in carry-on luggage. People really have become almost desensitized to it, so we like to try and make them aware,” said Lorie Dankers with TSA public affairs. “For people who bring those firearms in their carry-on luggage and claim to not know they did, they are really violating what I consider to be the number one rule of firearm ownership, which is know where your gun is at all times.”

According to Dankers, many people are surprised to know they can’t even bring portions of a firearm in their carry-on bag, such as a magazine or single bullets. However, items such as bullets, as well as other seemingly innocuous items, may be considered explosive.

“Our big focus is on things that can have catastrophic impact to the aircraft or the passengers,” Salmela said. “Other items may just be considered a nuisance by some, but they are still prohibited.”

Should you be one of the many travelers forced to surrender such prohibited items, whether you forgot they were in your possession or not, there are a few options for keeping them.

First, if an item is able to be placed in checked luggage, passengers are allowed to do so, time permitting and bearing in mind some items such as bear spray aren’t allowed in either checked or carry-on luggage. Second, the item can be left behind with a family member or friend who is not traveling, or placed in your vehicle in the parking lot.

And unfortunately, those who are unable to take advantage of options one or two will most likely never see that item again.

“The last option for them would be to voluntarily abandon or essentially leave these items behind,” Dankers said. “People often ask what we [airport employees] get to take home at the end of the day. And the answer is we don’t get to take any of it, it’s all disposed of in a specific way.”

Liquids, aerosols or gels that exceed the 100 milliliter restriction will be disposed of as hazardous materials. The other items, such as guns and knives, are sent to a state surplus store. According to Salmela, unless the item has a very distinct mark, such as an engraving, it will be “virtually impossible” to find again.

Reporter Kianna Gardner may be reached at 758-4459 or kgardner@dailyinterlake.com.