A man traveling to Yemen on a one-way ticket reportedly stowed two AK-47 magazines in his luggage — and Transportation Security Administration officials didn’t flag it. But the TSA is saying in its defense that it doesn’t look for these items and emphasized that the magazines were empty.
The report came from unnamed sources speaking with the New York Post, who said 32-year-old Bassam Alkhanshli and 28-year-old Methaq Mohammed Ali were stopped before boarding Emirates Flight 202 from John F. Kennedy Airport in New York to Yemen on Sunday.
The TSA found them both carrying more than the allowed amount of U.S. currency, which is $10,000 maximum. After further questioning from U.S. Customs and Border Control, the Post reported, the men were cleared for another flight, after missing their first. But their luggage was rescreened.
It was at this point that Customs Officer Richard Sanicola found “two 30-round AK-47 magazine clips” in Alkhanshli’s bag, the Post reported.
“I did not know I was not supposed to have this,” Alkhanshli, a naturalized U.S. citizen and resident of Tennessee, told officials, the Post’s sources said.
According to the TSA’s website, travelers can transport with unloaded firearms and ammunition in checked baggage. A TSA spokesman told TheBlaze that unloaded magazines are not prohibited in checked baggage.
“Empty magazines aren’t something we are looking for,” TSA press secretary Ross Feinstein told TheBlaze in an email Wednesday. “We are looking for items that could blow up a plane. We also don’t look for narcotics, counterfeit hand bags, etc. Those items would also violate the law, but won’t cause catastrophic damage to an aircraft.”
Feinstein added that the TSA does not require empty magazines to be declared to an airline either. All firearms, however, must be declared to the airline at the ticket counter.
The TSA notes that traveling with firearms and related paraphernalia might be subject to additional state, local and international government laws. According to the National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Action, New York and New Jersey airports uphold state laws, which are strict regarding transport of such items.
A 23-year-old from Indiana was arrested last month for traveling with a gun and ammunition in his checked baggage through New Jersey’s Newark Airport. Last year, a pregnant woman and another 23-year-old man were arrested in separate incidents for firearms in checked baggage in New York.
The New York Post reported that Alkhanshli was charged in Queens Criminal Court with criminal possession of a weapon. Bail was set at $5,000 bond or $2,500 cash, which is significantly less than the $50,000 asked by Assistant District Attorney Robin Kwalbrun.
Front page image via Shutterstock
This story has been updated for clarity