When Ryan Shannon had two guns stolen from his TSA checked bags, he hoped his airline, Delta, would rush into action to help him find the missing weapons. But he left their baggage department disappointed.
“They were like, oh, well TSA took them. I'm like no, they cleared TSA. And at that point she was like, oh well, you're going to have to go online and fill out a claims form. I was like, that's it? You're just expecting me to leave after?" said Shannon.
Stunned by the airline's response, Shannon had to call Port of Seattle Police, who immediately filed a report that the guns were stolen. Two guns are missing, so what happens next? I've contacted Port of Seattle Police, TSA, the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms. No agency I spoke with knows of a national protocol to handle stolen weapons at airports. Tony Anderson, a Port of Seattle Police Commander, said he’d like to see that change.
"Guns are serious, I agree completely. Theft of a gun is a critical issue and we should have some consistent practices throughout the country," explained Anderson.
Let's use Ryan's case as an example. The guns were stolen on July 21st. Port of Seattle Police said they called the police at the connecting airport in Minneapolis right away. But they said no one told them the flight originated from Flint until last week.
Commander Anderson adds, “We realized just recently that the point of origin was Flint, Michigan. Most of these thefts occur at the point of origin. That's when the most opportunity is there for a theft."
When we first called TSA, a spokesperson said Ryan's flight didn't exist. Once we proved it did, she said TSA didn't know anything about it. According to airline expert Todd Curtis, there are issues with the tracking of many hazardous items in the industry but stolen guns pose a special problem.
“They are not required to do any coordination on a national basis so it seems there's a gap here a hazard gap that's being put forth in the community,” said Curtis.
To be fair, Port of Seattle Police have aggressively investigated stolen guns at Sea-Tac. Five guns have been stolen here in three years. There have been arrests connected to three of those weapons.
For its part, the airline said, "Delta works with the passenger to ensure proper reporting of the weapon to local law enforcement officials. We partner with the local agencies and cooperate fully in their investigation in addition to conducting our own internal investigation."
Until there is a protocol known to everyone, the information about the theft of guns in airports will be as elusive as the identity of the thieves stealing the weapons in the first place. Commander Anderson said his department is making a strong effort to stop these thefts.
“We take these all very seriously. And I don't want guns out there. I'd just as soon not have them out on the street and in the hands of the owners," said Anderson.
Meanwhile, Shannon remains disillusioned with the entire system.
“I thought that we were supposed to have a sense of security in who we fly with. To me, it honestly, all this security is just so bogus. What's the point of it all?" said Shannon.