A Georgia man faces a misdemeanor charge after a loaded handgun was found in his carry-on baggage at the Quad-City International Airport in Moline, authorities announced Friday.
Officers with the Transportation Security Administration, or TSA, were conducting routine screening at the X-ray checkpoint at 4:53 a.m. Thursday when they observed a .380-caliber Walther PK handgun in a carry-on bag. According to a news release, the TSA said the gun was loaded, with six rounds and one in the chamber.
The bag was later determined to belong to passenger John D. Van Epps, 58, of Cumming, Ga., according to a statement from Jeff Patterson, the airport's public safety manager. The Metropolitan Airport Authority Police responded to the checkpoint and took Van Epps into custody, confiscating the gun and the ammunition.
Van Epps, who originally was ticketed for a flight to Atlanta, had a concealed weapon permit, but the TSA prohibits passengers from taking weapons onto airplanes. He was charged with unlawful use of weapons and transported to the Rock Island County Jail, where he posted bond and was released. Bond was set at $5,000.
In an email message sent to the Quad-City Times, Patterson said Van Epps was arrested without incident. Patterson, who recently was hired as the public safety manager, said he did not know how many previous times guns had been confiscated at the Quad-City airport.
The discovery of the loaded gun comes on the heels of a report Wednesday that the TSA is recommending armed law enforcement officers be posted at security checkpoints and counters during peak travel hours. The agency's recommendation also comes in the aftermath of last year's fatal shooting of a TSA officer at Los Angeles International Airport. It was the agency's first death in the line of duty.
TSA spokesman James McKinney said the agency confiscates 1,800 guns a year at airports across the country. According to the TSA website, the agency confiscated 50 firearms nationwide during the week ending March 21. Of those, 43 were loaded and 15 had a round chambered.
The TSA advises that passengers are responsible for the contents of the bags they bring to the security checkpoint and encourages passengers to look through their bags thoroughly before arriving at the airport. To check whether an item is permitted or prohibited on a flight, visit tsa.gov and read the "Can I bring my _________?" feature. The same tool is available via a free downloadable app called "My TSA."