The US Transportation Security Administration is in charge of safeguarding America's airports and air travelers (among other things), which frequently involves confiscating guns, weapons, and various other restricted items. The agency also operates what is regarded (by me) as one of the best Instagram accounts, posting the items it seizes under the hashtag #TSAGoodCatch.
Those two facts recently collided to bring us this arresting image of a loaded handgun covered in clay and stashed inside a computer, which the TSA says was recently uncovered inside the checked luggage of someone at Houston's George H. W. Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH).
I'm no gun expert, so I won't hazard a guess on the make and model of the weapon here. But I did play a lot with Play-Doh as a kid, and to me, that "clay," as the TSA calls it, sure looks an awful lot like the good stuff. Look to the side and you'll even see our namesake piece of electronics sitting there, apparently in an attempt to make the whole configuration look more convincingly like a computer and less like a gun holster.
Who did this? Why? And did they really think covering a gun in clay and sticking it inside a computer was the best way to hide it from the TSA? None of these questions have easy answers, and the TSA isn't saying much. Here's a statement a TSA spokesperson provided to Motherboard via email, shortly after this article was published.
It was a loaded 9mm.
When TSA officers find a firearm at the checkpoint or improperly packed in a checked bag, they alert law enforcement. Law enforcement interviews the passenger and determines if there will be criminal charges.
TSA has the ability to impose a civil penalty (a fine). See range at link below. Civil penalties can be higher than this range if it's determined there was an attempt to conceal an item. Passengers are notified about a civil penalty several weeks after an incident.
Passengers cannot take firearms to security checkpoints. They can be transported in checked bags only if declared to the airline at the ticket counter. Firearms also must be unloaded and packed in a locked, hard-sided case. More information on traveling with firearms here.
Information on Civil Penalties here.
Security Violations for Prohibited Items Discovered in Checked Baggage A. Firearms i. Loaded firearms $1,000-$2,000 + Criminal Referral ii. Undeclared and/or improperly packaged firearms $500-$1,000
The TSA also posted about the incident on its blog, saying the substance used to cover the gun was "modeling clay." So there goes my Play-Doh theory.
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