CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Scattered across a table agents with the Transportation Security Administration showed off the array of prohibited items which had been voluntarily surrendered in the last few months at Charleston’s Yeager Airport.
The pile included every possible size and shape of pocket knife or multi-tool. The items also included an array of everyday hand tools like hammers, screwdrivers, and pliers as well as a cordless drill in a carrying case and a ball trailer hitch.
“Multi-tools, a lot of multi tools,” said TSA agent Christopher Graley. “We’re in West Virginia and everybody carries a multi-tool and they have a good sized blade on them.”
The items piled on the table aren’t necessarily illegal, they’re just prohibited from being carried on an airplane. TSA spokesperson Lisa Farbstein stressed passengers who were caught with those items had options besides surrendering the item to agents at the
“You can hand it off to a non-traveling companion, you can run back to your vehicle and lock it up, or you can slip it into your checked bag,” she said. “Your last option is surrender it to TSA.”
That’s why the agency refrains from calling the items “confiscated” since passengers had other options before TSA took possession. That isn’t the case with firearms. Firearms are immediately confiscated and the traveler detained for questioning.
“We shut down the line and call over the airport police who confiscate the weapon and handle the legal part of the matter,” said Farbstein.
So far this year, four guns have been confiscated at Yeager. Airport. Police Chief Eric Johnson said the most recent was Friday morning.
“She had come to West Virginia on business from Missouri and had driven, she was flying home here at Yeager,” said Johnson. “She went through security and they discovered the firearm in her carry on and notified Yeager Police.”
The woman, whose name was not revealed, was issued a summons, but was allowed to continue flying after she was questioned. Typically a firearm confiscation is handled in one of several ways, including charges or a citation. However, they all result in hefty fines.
“Usually the first offense for bringing a firearm is $3,900, so that’s a very expensive mistake,” said Farbstein. “That can go up depending on the circumstances. Whether the gun was loaded or unloaded, whether the person was cooperative or uncooperative–was this a first offense? All of these can affect the level of the fine.”
During 2018 four firearms have been confiscated at Yeager The number in 2017 was seven, ten guns were confiscated in 2016 and three in 2015. According to Johnson all of those were handguns.
As for the buckets and boxes of knives and tools, Farbstein said those eventually become the property of the state of West Virginia.
“We give it to the state and the state actually sells the items as government surplus property,” she explained. The state keeps the profit. TSA makes no profit.”
TSA agents say they average about two prohibited items a shift, but sometimes it will be a lot more.
“It goes in spurts. Sometimes you’ll have a big day and a lot of items are surrendered,” said TSA Agent Valerie Hammes. “Then we try to encourage people to take it back to the car or take it back to the loved one who dropped them off. That’s our biggest encouragement.”