A section of Los Angeles International Airport was evacuated last week when a Stanford University professor was arrested on charges of bringing a World War II-era grenade through a security checkpoint in a carry-on bag.
It has become an all-too-common problem. Transportation Security Administration officers uncovered 136 inert, replica or novelty hand grenades at U.S. airports in 2013.
In addition to the grenades, TSA screeners discovered 1,813 firearms, a 16.5% increase from 2012. The 2013 weapons tally represents the fifth year in a row that the number of guns confiscated by the TSA has increased.
One explanation is that more people are flying on commercial flights since the end of the recession.
Of those passengers who have been stopped for trying to carry weapons onto planes, most say it was an innocent mistake.
“A vast majority of people who have prohibited items claim to have forgotten it in their bag,” said TSA spokesman Ross Feinstein.
Another common excuse, he said, is that travelers didn’t realize inert or replica weapons were prohibited. But Feinstein noted that X-ray machines and full-body scanners at airport checkpoints cannot tell the difference between fake and real weapons.
In the latest weapons scare at Terminal 1 at LAX, Los Angeles police officials say Gary Walter Cox, 58, was arrested Tuesday after TSA officials found the grenade in his carry-on bag.
Cox told Times reporter Christine Mai-Duc that he thought the grenade was inert, but a Los Angeles police bomb squad detonated the grenade and found it contained explosive material.
“At first, I didn’t even remember that I had it in there,” Cox said of his father’s World War II-era grenade. “It took me quite a long while peering at the screen before I understood what it was.”
Cox was arrested on charges of possessing a destructive device and was released on $500,000 bail, police said. Cox said police told him the charges would be dropped.
An LAPD spokesman said he couldn't confirm that account.