By Jennifer Brett and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
For reasons that aren’t clear, Transportation Security Administration agents are detecting pink guns during routine airport security screenings.
“Notice a theme here?” the TSA posted on its Instagram page with a photo of several rose-colored weapons confiscated recently at U.S. airports.
A hot-pink Ruger and the ammo that goes with it were found about a month ago at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.
A pink Hello Kitty piece was detected a few days ago at Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks, Connecticut.
Lawful owners of firearms can fly with the,m but must follow strict guidelines. They are allowed in checked luggage only, and must be in a locked, hard-sided case with padding. The ammunition must be kept in a separate case.
“If you don’t do that you get in trouble,” TSA regional spokesman Mark Howell said. Violators face a civil penalty of up to $7,500 from the TSA, and whatever criminal charges the local authorities choose to levy.
The weapons must be declared and must be unloaded.
“About 80 percent of the guns we find are loaded,” Howell said.
The TSA finds thousands of guns each year.
It detected 2,212 guns nationwide in 2014, 2,653 in 2015 and more than 1,500 so far in 2016, Howell said. Most of the guns that the TSA finds, not surprisingly, are detected in Atlanta, at the world’s busiest airport.
Howell couldn’t say why the number of pink guns seems to be on the rise, but noted that gun detection is up overall, as is gun ownership in general.
“More passengers plus more people carrying equals more guns through the checkpoint,” he said. “We’re finding them a lot more.”
Here’s a look at the growth in national gun manufacturing:
Here’s a look at gun ownership stats by state:
And here’s a look at who’s packing what and where:
Almost everyone caught trying to get a weapon through security says it was an accident, Howell said.
“There’s hardly ever any intent,” he said. “It’s always, ‘Oops, I forgot or somebody packed my bag for me and didn’t look.’ When you come to the airport and check your bag you’re responsible (for) it.”
The owner of the pink .380 Ruger Ruger semi-automatic pistol told TSA agents that they could have it and toss it, but she wound up booked into the Clayton County jail instead and her gun taken into evidence at the Atlanta Police Department. She told agents that she had a weapons permit but could not produce it, an Atlanta police report said.
“I was running really late to the airport, so I was throwing a lot of stuff into my purse so I could get there and the gun is really small and it was in the bottom of my purse,” she said during an interview with tooFab. “I just forgot it was in there. I couldn’t see it, so when I went through security check, they pretty much found it.”
Howell suggests that passengers who own weapons take the time to make sure they don’t accidentally send them through airport security.
“We’re asking folks to take five minutes before they go to the airport to make sure (there’s no weapon in carry-on baggage),” Howell said. “It really doesn’t matter what kind of gun you have or what color it is.”