Crimewatch: Guns in airport security

It's a mistake you don't want to make. Honest people are accidentally sending their guns through the security checkpoints at Austin's airport, even state leaders.

Checkpoints at the airports are meant for our protection. Sometimes we are our own worst enemy.

"Most of them are upstanding citizens who make an honest mistake," said Attorney James Gill.

Gill defends those who have been caught with guns in the security lines.

"There's a common thing that seems to happen on a lot of them is they're late, they're in a rush. They simply throw something into a bag and they've forgotten that the gun or the knife or whatever the weapon is still in the bag," Gill said.

It's a costly error punishable by two to ten years in prison.

Last year, APD arrested 45 people for carrying a weapon in a prohibited place. That included 26 guns, 17 knives, 7 brass knuckles and five batons.

During the first six months of this year, APD arrested 13 people for carrying guns through checkpoints. Fifty percent had a concealed carry license. Some of those are Gill's clients.

"A husband and wife who were together on their way to a business trip in the middle of the United States. He was arrested at the airport. She still had to make the meeting. Another was a family vacation. They were on their way out to California for someone's graduation and half the family got to go again and the husband stayed behind for being arrested again," Gill said.

Even politicians have made the mistake. In March of 2000, State Rep. Rene Oliveira of Brownsville was caught with a gun at a checkpoint at Valley International Airport in Harlingen. He was not arrested or charged.

But state Rep. Drew Darby of San Angelo was. On November 14, Austin police say a TSA screener found a handgun in Darby's leather carry-on bag at Austin Bergstrom International Airport. Darby is a concealed license holder and told police he forgot his handgun was in his bag.

We spoke with Darby's Chief of Staff here in Austin. He said he did not wish to comment, that they were trying to move on.

Gill says if Darby's attorney can prove there was no intent to do harm, the charge will likely be dropped.

Gill says all of his clients have had their cases resolved with a dismissal. But even the initial charge can be life-changing.

"If you're facing a felony charge, sometimes that's immediate termination for people," Gill said.

Gill hopes all travelers will heed this advice.

"Check your bags before you head to the airport. Spend the extra two minutes," Gill said.

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