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Of the 12 airports with the most guns last year, five are in Texas: Dallas-Fort Worth International, 80 guns; George Bush Intercontinental in Houston, 52; Dallas Love Field, 37; William P. Hobby in Houston, 35, and Austin-Bergstrom International, 33. Hartsfield-Jackson in Atlanta had the most for any airport, at 96. Others include Phoenix Sky Harbor, 54; Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International in Florida, 42; Denver International, 39; Seattle-Tacoma International, 37; Orlando International Airport in Florida, 36, and Tampa International in Florida, 33.
When expressed as a proportion of airport traffic volume, small airports in the West and South led the way. The airport in Roswell, N.M., had 8.5 guns intercepted per 100,000 passengers last year; Cedar City, Utah, and Provo, Utah, both 6.5; Longview, Texas, 4.9; Dickinson, N.D., 4; Joplin, Mo., 3.8; Twin Falls, Idaho, 3.4; Fort Smith, Ark., 3.3, and Walla Walla, Wash., and Elko, Nev., both 2.9.
By contrast, at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, where TSA screened nearly 27 million passengers last year, there was a single passenger found to have a gun.
"There are some Americans who believe that there are no limits, that they not only have a constitutional but a God-given right to have a gun and ‘By gosh, if I want to bring a gun on a plane I’m going to do it,’" said Spitzer, a professor at the State University of New York-Cortland.
TSA’s count of guns intercepted doesn’t include all the other kinds of prohibited "guns" that TSA screeners find, like flare guns, BB guns, air guns, spear guns, pellet guns and starter pistols. Screeners find half a dozen to several dozen stun guns on passengers or in their carry-on bags each week. Last December, screeners stopped a passenger in Boston with seven stun guns in his bag. He said they were Christmas presents. The same week, screeners spotted 26 stun guns in the carry-on bag of a passenger at JFK. TSA has found several stun guns disguised as smartphones, and one that looked like a package of cigarettes.
Passengers are allowed to take guns with them when they fly, but only as checked baggage. They are required to fill out a form declaring the weapons and to carry them in a hard-sided bag with a lock.
Most of those who are stopped with guns are reluctant to talk about it afterward. One who didn’t mind was Raymond Whitehead, 53, of Santa Fe, N.M., who was arrested at Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey in May after screeners spotted 10 hollow-point bullets in his carry-on bag. Whitehead, who is completely blind, also had a .38 caliber Charter Arms revolver in his checked bag that he had failed to declare. He said in an interview with the AP that he was unaware of the specifics of the rules for checking guns, or that hollow-point bullets are illegal in New Jersey.
Whitehead acknowledged that it seems "counterintuitive" for a blind man to have a gun but said he keeps a loaded gun handy for protection from intruders. In such a situation, he said, he would call out a warning that he had a gun and spray bullets in the direction of the noise if the intruder didn’t leave.
"I have five shots, and if I fan it out I’m going to hit you," said Whitehead, a National Rifle Association member who owns five guns.
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