8News Investigates: Caught in a carry-on

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — You might be boarding a flight this holiday season, but before you head to the airport, ask yourself: What’s in my bag?

You may shocked by what’s been caught in carry-on bags at Richmond International Airport. 8News recently got an exclusive behind-the-scenes look with the TSA.

13a249b13c01441caed5170c2dddf2b2“This is an inert grenade. These are authentic nunchucks. Here’s a trendy item we are seeing lately, it’s called the credit card knife,”  Lisa Farbstein, spokesperson for the Transportation Security Administration said while holding up just some of the frightening items captured in a carry-on at a TSA checkpoint at RIC this past year.

“This is a solid brass mini sledge hammer. That would be something that would be perfect for your checked bag, but not your carry on bag because we would consider that a bludgeoning instrument,” Farbstein added.

The TSA spokesperson poured over several bins of confiscated items collected by TSA.

Whether it was a garden tool or a pocket knife someone forgot to take off their keychain, if can be used as a weapon, it can’t go on the plane.

Some of the more unusual weapons collected include a brass knuckles necklace, pink cat eyes — the pointy ears make it a weapon — and a belt with fake ammunition. It’s more of a fashion statement, but even a replica is banned from your carry on bag.

Farbstein explained why: “This could cause a panic on a plane.”


8News shared with passengers photos of some of the items TSA collected. Looking at a photo of the inert grenade, Michael Kim said, “I am shocked. Is that even allowed to be carried anywhere, not just on an airplane?”

Evin Heintz also seemed stunned. “I don’t know why people would even try to take this on.”

Still, just two weeks ago, a loaded gun was detected at an RIC checkpoint. It’s an alarming trend: So far this year, 10 firearms have been spotted in carry-ons at RIC. That’s up from seven last year.

Nationwide, the TSA collected 2653 firearms at airport checkpoints in 2015, a number that, despite TSA warnings, continues to rise.

6ae8bd7bc6ee4b168b94f8cc880e8a81The most common excuse is, ‘I forgot I had my firearm with me,’” Farbstein said.

It’s also a costly mistake. You can be arrested and the TSA can cite you up to $12,000. For the typical first time offender the average citation is about $3,000, which may also come with glaring looks from a long line of disgruntled travelers.

“Airport police will come over and they will remove it from the x-ray machine because we don’t want our officer touching firearms, so right there you have jammed up the line,” Farbstein said.

Your gun can go in your checked bag, but it has to be declared at the check-in counter and packed, unloaded, in a hard case.

So, what happens with all those knives and garden tools confiscated at checkpoints? If you have time you can put them back in your car or you must surrender them to TSA.  The items are then turned over to the state and the state sells them for a profit.

If you ever have any questions about what you can and can’t pack in your carry-on you can always take a photo of the item and tweet @asktsa or visit the TSA’s website.

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