Editorial: Security checks work - when passengers' good sense doesn't

Even gun rights activists must wonder why people walk into airports and try to go through security screening with guns, sometimes loaded guns, in their possession.

A story on CNN Wednesday reported that federal airport screeners still find four to five guns at checkpoints on a typical day, according to testimony that John Pistole, administrator of the Transportation Security Administration, gave during a Senate hearing.

"Yesterday we found six including one at ... Bradley (airport in Connecticut) - a loaded gun with seven rounds in it, in a checked bag that (a passenger) was trying to get through," Pistole said.

Typically, passengers say "they forgot the weapon was in their bag," said TSA officials whom CNN quoted. In one case, a passenger at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport tried to board a plane with two pistols, three ammunition magazines, eight knives and a hand saw in a carry-on bag. CNN said local law enforcement arrested the man. In all, TSA told CNN, more than 900 guns have been recovered at checkpoints this year.

One of those arrests was NBA legend Bill Russell who, police said, brought a loaded gun to Sea-Tac International Airport in Seattle in October.

Authorities arrested him and issued a state citation for having a weapon in a prohibited area of the airport, a Seattle police spokesman said. Russell was reportedly carrying a .38 caliber handgun, which was found during a screening of carry-on bags at a checkpoint, TSA officials said. Russell later apologized and praised TSA for the professional way the agents handled the situation and for "their efforts to keep air travel safe."

We applaud Russell for publicly confronting his unfortunate happenstance. Yet, it still raises the question: How can people forget that they have a weapon in their carry-on luggage? The only weapons allowed on board a plane must be in checked baggage and unloaded.

This isn't to say stricter gun control would have prevented the tragedy at Los Angeles International Airport Friday morning when a man carrying a note that said he wanted to "kill TSA" took a semi-automatic rifle from a bag and began shooting, killing one TSA officer and injuring two others, authorities said.

Tough gun laws probably would not prevent this kind of tragedy and disruption that frightened passengers, caused an evacuation of an airport terminal and delayed flights across the country.

But, still, it doesn't make sense that people would "forget" they have guns, loaded ones at that, in their carry-ons.

Unbelievable.