A Southwest Airlines pilot was arrested on Wednesday after a loaded gun was discovered in his carry-on luggage at St. Louis Lambert International Airport.
According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the TSA said the gun was a Smith & Wesson 9mm handgun with seven rounds of ammunition in it. The pilot did not have a permit to carry a weapon on him.
TSA spokesman Mark Howell told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that both the gun and the magazine containing the ammunition were safely removed from the scene by police.
Howell also said it’s not clear why the gun was left in the pilot’s carry-on. “Regardless if an airport employee or a passenger caught with it, 99.99 percent of the time they say, ‘Oops, I forgot it was in my bag,’” he said.
The pilot is reported to be a 51-year-old man, but his name has not been released. According to Jeff Lea, a spokesman for Lambert International Airport, the pilot was bound for a flight from St. Louis to Las Vegas before he was detained by police around 4:45 a.m. on Wednesday morning. The flight was delayed by about 45 minutes, however it’s unclear whether the man was meant to be part of the flight crew or whether he was a passenger.
Southwest Airlines said in a statement to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that they are working with the authorities to gather more information on the situation but had no further comment.
The TSA requires all firearms to be declared by passengers, as well as unloaded, sealed in a locked, hard-sided container, and stored in checked luggage only — which is a policy most airline employees should be extremely familiar with since they fly nearly every day.
Despite this strident policy, the TSA finds an alarming number of firearms coming through security checkpoints every year. According to the TSA website, 3,391 firearms were discovered in carry-on bags at checkpoints across the country (nine firearms per day) in 2016. 83 percent of discovered firearms were loaded.
Still, Lambert Airport is not one of the top 10 airports for firearms discoveries. Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, Dallas/Fort Worth International, and George Bush Intercontinental Airport - Houston make up the top three spots.
The pilot was arrested on suspicion of unlawful use of a weapon, however full charges against him are still pending by St. Louis County prosecutors.