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Passenger found with a gun at airport security checkpoint

By Ann Butler Herald staff writer

Security officers working for the Transportation Security Administration at the Durango-La Plata County Airport found a loaded gun while screening a passenger Monday.

The officers discovered a .380-caliber Taurus, loaded with four rounds, at the security checkpoint.

Sheriff Duke Schirard said the passenger, whom he identified as Gary Cleaver, although he was unsure of the spelling, has a concealed-weapon permit.

“He just forgot he had a small pistol in his pocket,” Schirard said. “We secured the pistol and gave him a warning. He’s been investigated thoroughly to get that permit, and he seems to be an upright citizen who made a mistake.”

Schirard said his office is waiting to see if TSA wants to press charges.

Carrie Harmon, the TSA regional public affairs manager, said her agency leaves it up to law enforcement to press criminal charges but has the ability to assess a fine for firearms violations.

“We frequently assess civil penalties for the worst violations,” she said, adding that a loaded firearm at a checkpoint is considered one of the most serious. The fine for that specific violation ranges from $3,000 to $7,500.

The incident took place about 12:45 p.m., and the checkpoint was closed for about 20 minutes.

“They have to have a police officer take control of the weapon, and that was the delay, waiting for the officer to arrive,” said Kip Turner, the new director of aviation at the airport. “That’s where the second TSA line is going to come in handy because they could have kept screening passengers while the first checkpoint was closed.”

Turner said the checkpoint shutdown did not affect airport operations.

“It did impact the airlines getting their passengers on board,” he said, “but once they were able to open the line, TSA really facilitated getting the line on through.”

The second TSA security line is scheduled to be installed by the end of May or beginning of June, he said.

Harmon said one gun was discovered at the Durango-La Plata County Airport during a security search in 2012, and this is the first such violation in 2013.

TSA found about 1,550 firearms in passengers’ carry-ons in 2012 and had intercepted about 350 by the end of March this year.

“This is a good opportunity to remind airline passengers to check and make sure they don’t have firearms or ammunition in their baggage,” she said.

abutler@durangoherald.com

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