DENVER — Even a decade after 9/11, an unnerving amount of contraband is still being discovered at Denver International Airport, and airports across the country.
During one day last week, three loaded guns were confiscated by DIA security.
But you probably didn’t know about the machete recently found there. Or the stun gun.
FOX31 Denver’s Jeremy Hubbard was given an exclusive look at the Transportation Security Administration’s stockpile of banned items at DIA, including a pair of grenades that caught TSA agents off guard.
“It puts a big lump in your throat and you’re trying to make sure that that’s actually what you’re seeing,” said Desmond Sarnella, a TSA supervisor at DIA.
Thankfully, those grenades were very realistic replicas. But another item was all too real.
“Looks just like a cell phone, talks like a cell phone, but in actuality it is a taser,” Sarnella told FOX31 Denver, as he showed off a stun gun made to look like a smart phone.
Security agents at DIA have amassed a crate full of weapons, tools and toys that appear dangerous, and all too often are. Everything from martial arts weapons, to blades made to fit in your wallet like a credit card.
And it gets worse. Since the first of the year, about a dozen people have come to Denver checkpoints with loaded guns.
It’s not just happening in Denver. Last week, 30 guns were found at airports around the country. 26 of them were loaded. A few weeks back, a traveler in Honolulu tried to sneak a pistol through security by cloaking it in a hollowed-out book.
“Some people just don`t think,” Sarnella said.
The most dangerous outlawed items are turned over to authorities. The rest of it winds up at General Services Administration warehouses like the one at the Denver Federal Center in Lakewood.
FOX31 Denver was given exclusive access to the warehouse, where they collect about three and a half tons of contraband every year, from airports across the western US.
Aside from pocket knives by the thousands, hundreds of pairs of scissors and hunting weapons, there are crates full of box cutters, brass knuckles, explosive propane tanks, razor sharp circular-saw blades … and something that surprised us: a machete. Someone tried to board a flight at DIA with the sharp weapon recently.
But believe it or not, something good actually comes from the surrendered items. They help the government pay its bills.
Workers at the warehouse sort, bundle and bag the items and sell them online to the highest bidder. It’s Uncle Sam’s version of eBay, with the items sold in bundles and lots, and the money going to buy supplies for the federal government. And it’s cheaper than you think. The items often go for 10% – 20% of their retail value.
Of course, Ideally, they wouldn’t have to do this in the first place. Ideally, we’d all pay attention to the rules. But because common sense isn’t exactly in surplus, their work at the warehouse never seems to stop.
If you’d like to look at some of the confiscated items, and make a bid, you can visit the GSA’s auction website at http://gsaauctions.gov/gsaauctions/gsaauctions/.
If you’d like to read the TSA’s blog, for a look at some weapons recently surrendered at DIA and other airports nationwide, visit this website: http://blog.tsa.gov/.