TSA finds, seizes unique weapons at Houston airports

TSA says they've caught hundreds of weapons from large knives to nunchucks

By Owen Conflenti - Anchor

HOUSTON - From large knives to nunchucks to small blades that look like a credit card, TSA officers say they have caught hundreds of bizarre weapons at Houston airports in 2012.

For the first time, Local 2 was given an inside look at what officers confiscated at both Bush Intercontinental and Hobby.

"It's the entire array," said Lynda Johnson, TSA Stakeholder Manager in Houston. "This is just a broad sampling of the kind of stuff they (TSA officers) see every day."

Officers caught passengers with stun guns, chemical sprays, brass knuckles used as purse accessories and cell phone holders, a circular saw, and even a loaded spear gun.

Officers also found the items inside carry-on bags or passenger's pockets as they went through TSA security checkpoints.

Johnson said what happens to those caught with prohibited items depends on what TSA and Houston Police officers determine was the intent.

"If they had a dagger in a sheath on their leg and they were concealing it, that's when they are going to get additional things done," said Johnson. "Other than that, we take the items away. Everything is reported within our system."

TSA caught two loaded handguns on passengers at Hobby Airport in December. In 2012, officers confiscated 33 total firearms at Hobby.

At Bush Intercontinental, TSA officers discovered a handgun last month. In 2012, officers found 53 guns at IAH. That's the fourth highest number for any US airport.

Nationwide, TSA says its officers discovered 1,543 guns in 2012. Reports show 78 percent of the firearms were loaded.

In Houston, every airport passenger caught with a gun during security checks gets a visit with Houston Police. Johnson says investigators determine if charges will be filed.

Inside other airports in 2012, some items TSA officers uncovered brought much more than police to the scene. An active grenade was found inside a carry-on bag at Dallas-Fort Worth Airport. A police bomb squad responded to the checkpoint.

Nationwide, TSA officers also found knives concealed inside ink pens, knives taped to iPad cases, guns stuffed inside stuffed animals, and even an inert mortar round.

Johnson said some passengers will try to test the TSA to see if officers will catch a prohibited item at a checkpoint. The TSA believes the hundreds of confiscated weapons are proof that officers are passing the test, one bizarre weapon at a time.

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