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Loaded gun tumbles from checked bag at LAX [Updated]

October 23, 2011 |  1:36 pm

[FOR THE RECORD: A previous version of this post ran with the following headline: "Loaded gun in luggage at LAX escapes detection by TSA." Lorie Dankers, a spokeswoman for the TSA, said that while the agency screens carry-on luggage for firearms, it is not the TSA's responsibility to screen checked baggage for guns. The agency only screens checked baggage for explosives, she said.]

 

Airport security officials at Los Angeles International Airport failed to detect a loaded handgun that was contained in a traveler's checked bag Sunday, according to several law enforcement sources.

An airport ramp crew discovered the loaded .38-caliber handgun Sunday after it tumbled from an unzipped compartment in a duffel bag they were loading onto Alaska Airlines Flight 563, according to the sources. The aircraft was leaving the terminal at LAX at 8:15 a.m. Sunday, bound for Portland, Ore.

Workers called Los Angeles Airport Police to report the discovery. The owner of the gun was questioned at the LAPD's Pacific station and released and allowed to board a later flight to Portland. The gun was turned over to Los Angeles police, the source said.

The law enforcement sources declined to speak for attribution on the case, saying they were not authorized to speak for their departments.

A Transportation Safety Administration spokeswoman said she was unfamiliar with the incident, but was seeking details and would comment later in the day.

[Updated at 1:53 p.m.: TSA spokeswoman Lorie Dankers said the TSA had screened the bag for explosives and there were none.

"It's the airline and passenger's responsibility to ensure that firearms are transported correctly," she said. Dankers noted that since the firearm was in a checked bag, the passenger would not have had access to it on the flight].

According to the law enforcement sources, the traveler had not given the airline required notification that he was traveling with a gun in his checked bag on the trip from Los Angeles to Portland.

The traveler told authorities that he had flown out of Portland with the same bag, with the gun inside, three days earlier. It was not immediately clear whether he had notified the airline about the gun when he flew out of Portland.

Marshall McClain, president of the union representing Los Angeles Airport Police, said the incident showed that the TSA was expending too much effort on duties that police perform and not focusing on its core mission: to thoroughly screen passengers.

"TSA must do their primary mission and do it well," McClain said. "Local law enforcement needs to know that TSA is doing their part and not continuously trying to duplicate the law enforcement side of the airport screening program while their primary mission suffers."

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— Andrew Blankstein and Abby Sewell

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