It's legal to carry an unloaded firearm in checked luggage on flights as long as passengers notify the airline.
The Los Angeles Times says Alaska Airlines wasn't notified about the .38-caliber handgun that tumbled out of a duffel bag being loaded onto a Portland-bound flight on Sunday morning. The gun owner, whose name hasn't been released, was questioned by police and was allowed to board a later flight for Oregon.
Transportation Security Administration spokeswoman Lorie Dankers says the bag passed screening for explosives.
She says the TSA screens for firearms in carry-on luggage but adds it's not the agency's responsibility to detect firearms in checked luggage.
"It's the airline and passenger's responsibility to ensure that firearms are transported correctly," she said. Dankers noted that since the firearm was in a checked bag, the passenger would not have had access to it on the flight.
The L.A. Times adds:
According to the law enforcement sources, the traveler had not given the airline required notification that he was traveling with a gun in his checked bag on the trip from Los Angeles to Portland.
The traveler told authorities that he had flown out of Portland with the same bag, with the gun inside, three days earlier. It was not immediately clear whether he had notified the airline about the gun when he flew out of Portland.
Marshall McClain, president of the union representing Los Angeles Airport Police, said the incident showed that the TSA was expending too much effort on duties that police perform and not focusing on its core mission: to thoroughly screen passengers.
"TSA must do their primary mission and do it well," McClain said. "Local law enforcement needs to know that TSA is doing their part and not continuously trying to duplicate the law enforcement side of the airport screening program while their primary mission suffers."