A Rhode Island man has been arrested after the Transporation Security Administration (TSA) discovered he had tried to sneak a semi-automatic handgun and a clip of bullets through security by dunking the various parts in two jars of Jif peanut butter.
The incident occurred on Thursday when TSA officers were carrying out routine x-ray screening on checked passenger luggage at John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK).
The passenger was passing through JFK Terminal 8, which is used by American Airlines and British Airways, as well as a slew of other international airlines, including Finnair, Cathay Pacific, China Southern and Ethiopian Airlines.
Given the fact that passengers on domestic flights are generally allowed to check guns into the hold luggage as long as certain conditions are met, this incident poses the question as to whether the man was attempting to smuggle the firearm into a foreign country where gun ownership is much more controlled.
“The gun parts were artfully concealed in two smooth creamy jars of peanut butter, but there was certainly nothing smooth about the way the man went about trying to smuggle his gun,” commented John Essig, the TSA’s Federal Security Director for JFK Airport.
In order to carry a firearm on a domestic flight, passengers must hold a permit and ensure the firearm is properly packed in a locked hard-sided case. Firearms must be declared to the airline.
Transporting a firearm on an international flight is much more complicated and is pretty uncommon.
In this case, Port Authority Police confiscated the .22 calibre gun and magazine before tracking down the owner in the terminal building and arresting him.
The incident is reminiscent of an arrest at Fort Lauderdale Airport in November, where a woman tried to conceal a handgun in the cavity of a raw baking chicken inside her luggage.
This year has proved to be a record-breaking one for the TSA in finding firearms in passenger luggage at its airport screening checkpoints. As of December 16, the TSA says it has found 6,301 firearms in passenger hand luggage in violation of federal rules that prohibit guns in the airplane passenger cabin.
More than 88 percent of firearms discovered by TSA officers were loaded.
The sharp increase in passengers trying to take loaded guns with them onboard airplanes has resulted in the TSA raising the maximum civil penalty to $14,950. Passengers caught breaking the rules can also face arrest and separate criminal charges.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.
That is unfortunate as many places it is hard to get peanut butter so it’s somewhat common to take it on airplanes. Now it will face further scrutiny I’m sure.