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Airport screeners find loaded .38 on 76-year-old man

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 6:44 PM EST, Mon December 12, 2011

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Score one for the TSA.

Just a week after airport screeners came under criticism for allegedly "strip-searching" elderly women -- a charge the agency denies -- airport screeners in Detroit this weekend found a loaded handgun concealed on the ankle of a 76-year-old man, authorities said Monday.

The man, who had a valid permit to carry a handgun for personal protection, told police he knew guns were not permitted on airplanes, but said he forgot he had it on him, said Michael Conway, spokesman for the Wayne County Airport Authority. The man was briefly locked up and prosecutors are reviewing the case, Conway said.

The discovery comes at a time when the Transportation Security Administration is under criticism for allegedly conducting "strip searches" on elderly women. The agency said it does not conduct strip searches, but has steadfastly said it needs to resolve anomalies revealed by machines regardless of the passengers' ages.

Last week, Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tennessee, introduced a bill to strip airport screeners of the title "officer" and to remove their metal police badges, citing the alleged strip searches of elderly women. "Enough is enough!," Blackburn said in a statement. "The least we can do is end this impersonation which is an insult to real cops."

In Saturday's incident, a full-body scanner detected a hidden item on the man's ankle, the TSA said. Officers checked and found the loaded Ruger Prescott firearm in an ankle holster.

Following protocols, the TSA called the airport authority police department, whose officers arrested the man.

TSA spokesman Greg Soule said declared, unloaded and properly packaged firearms may be transported in checked baggage, but they are prohibited from being carried on the aircraft.

"The discovery of this firearm is a credit to both our officers' training and the cutting edge technology they use each day," Soule said in a statement. "Our officers used imaging technology to quickly locate this dangerous item, and ensure it was not carried on an aircraft."

In addition to a possibility of criminal charges, passengers carrying firearms to airport security checkpoints are subject to civil penalties assessed by TSA up to a maximum of $11,000. A common fine for this type of weapon is approximately $3,000, Soule said.

TSA officers detect about 4 or 5 firearms a day across the country on an average day. All told, more than 1,100 firearms have been discovered at airport checkpoints this year.

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