TAMPA, Fla. -- There was a new warning from the Transportation Security Administration at Tampa International Airport on Tuesday, urging people to leave their weapons at home this holiday travel season.
That might not seem like something you should have to tell passengers these days, but security officials say they are troubled by a rapidly increasing number of incidents at Tampa Bay’s busiest airport.
On a table, TSA showed an array of switchblades, knives, guns, brass knuckles, even a disabled rocket launcher. Of course, when the launcher went through the checked baggage scanners, they had no way of knowing it was inert.
Hundreds of items, all confiscated by TSA in just the past 45 days at TIA.
“The trend is rising on this and not just here in Tampa, but nationwide,” said Lee Kair, TSA’s federal security director.
Perhaps most alarming is the steady increase in firearms intercepted. There were 64 of them seized from passengers already this year at TIA, compared with 49 the previous year.
That’s twice as many as they confiscated just five years ago.
Many of those weapons, say officials, belonged to people with concealed weapons permits.
At least one was a repeat offender.
"The only thing I can attribute it to is that the farther we get away from the events of 9/11, the more people lose focus on security, I think,“ said Kair.
Passenger Ted Carrington admits he accidentally went through security with a pocket knife not long ago, citing the most common excuse TSA hears – that he simply forgot he had it on him.
“When I got home, I was like -- how did I make it through TSA with this? That was an accident. Small thing,” said Carrington.
Violators already face up to $11,000 in fines and the possibility of jail time depending upon the circumstances.
But that hasn't stopped the trend.
Now, with the holiday travel season approaching, TSA is making a public plea to leave weapons at home, or legally transport firearms by locking them in a hardsided case and putting them through as checked baggage.
“It's frightening. And I don't know what's going to the people's brains when they do that,” said Victoria Vazquez, picking up her son Tuesday at Tampa International.
Officials say there’s no indication any of the weapons seized were going to be used for terrorism, but passengers say the sheer amount and the potential for making trouble, is terrifying enough.
“They shouldn’t have them in the airport at all, you know,” said Frank Vazquez, “Some lunatic or something like that comes in, and now we've got a major problem.”