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Man who checked loaded gun in baggage at LAX may face charges

October 24, 2011 |  8:10 am

Los Angeles International Airport

The Los Angeles city attorney's office will decide whether to bring charges against a man who packed a loaded gun in his checked luggage en route from Los Angeles to Portland on Sunday, officials said.

Los Angeles police questioned and released the man after an airport ramp crew discovered the loaded .38-caliber handgun Sunday as they were loading the duffel bag onto Alaska Airlines Flight 563. 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 Los Angeles Police Department's Pacific station and released and allowed to board a later flight to Portland. The gun was turned over to Los Angeles police.

Passengers may travel with firearms in checked luggage, but the guns must be unloaded, placed in a locked container and declared.

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. 

Transportation Safety Administration officials did not take responsibility for the gun slipping through security screening.

TSA spokeswoman Lorie Dankers said the agency 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.

At least one aviation security expert said TSA did share the responsibility.

Douglas Laird, an airport security consultant and former head of security for Northwest Airlines, wrote in an emailed response: "The TSA screens checked luggage and it appears they missed the gun. Passenger is at fault and so is the TSA."


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Photo: A man who checked a loaded gun into his baggage at Los Angeles International Airport could face charges. Credit: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times