A strange thing happened to me at Newark Airport , of all places this morning. I was up early because I had to be on a flight to Los Angeles. As I normally do when I go through Security I took off my shoes, jacket, belt, etc. I put my backpack though the X-ray machine, and I got flagged. I never get flagged. I thought it might have been my “carry on” EDC Altoids kit I had thrown in the bag the evening before. I tried to tell the representative that was going through my bag that I thought that is what it was. He gave me a little attitude. I remained cordial. The TSA agent continued to pull stuff out of my bag, books, laptop cords & cables, etc… And then he pulled it out. A box of 50 rounds of 9mm Blazer ammunition. I immediately had the ‘oh shit’ look on my face. I’m at the airport. Not just any airport mind you. Newark Airport, one of the busiest airports in the country. “This is going to get bad real fast,” I thought to myself. The TSA Agent called over two other agents. They pulled the bullets out of the box for everyone around to see. Embarrassing to say the least. All I could think was that people around me going buy staring are looking at me as a would be terrorist suspect. Ugh. The TSA manager came over. He was wearing a suit. Very professional, and looked and acted like a retired LEO. He asked me a couple of simple questions, “Why did I have them? Where they Hollow Point? Etc…“ I explained that I had been target shooting the week before, and simply forgot to take them out, and that they were FMJ and not self defense rounds. He then explained to me that the procedure was that he had to report it to the Port Authority Police, and that they had to come to interview me. He was very cordial and professional. I was pleasantly surprised.
I sat in a chair waiting for several minutes, watching everyone look at my box of bullets and then looking at me. I was staring at my box of bullets shaking my head saying to myself, “Stupid mistake.” An honest mistake as well.
The Port Authority Officers showed up. They too were very nice and very professional. The first officer asked if they were for a registered legal gun. I explained that it was and that I use them in a Springfield XDm. He then explained he had to do a criminal background check on me to determine whether or not there were any outstanding warrants, was on a no fly list, or if they were even going to allow me to go on with my trip. I said that that was fine and to do whatever they needed to do to verify my background and whatever he needed, and that I would be cooperative. He asked me for my ID, SSN, and some other information. He walked off and started pushing the buttons on his mobile phone starting the process. The other officer was playing “good cop” with me. Asking me where I was from, who I go shooting with, etc. He was getting information out of me they could use if they had to. I know the process. Much of my family is in law enforcement. Many of my friends have been state, local, and federal LEOs. I played along. I extracted some information from him as well. He has been “on the job” for two years, he enjoys it, there are many boxes of rounds, magazines, and other gun related product that comes through the X-ray machine all the time. Most of the “to be confiscated” products come through in the morning, and rarely in the afternoon or evening. I seemed to be the first catch of the day. The first officer came back over and asked me if I was local or state LEO. I have been asked that by a LEO in the past when stopped for speeding. I get that from time to time. I always have, ever since my early 20’s. I should have finished ROTC, served in the Army, and become an MP that was in my plan earlier in my live. It is something I regret not doing. I should have continued on to the FBI or some other Federal agency the way I had wanted to. That is another story for another time, however.
The background check came back negative, and everything was fine, as I knew it would be. The first PAO said that I could go on with my trip, took my phone numbers, told me they were confiscating my box of 9mm rounds. I said it was a small loss, apologized for inconveniencing them, thanked them for being so professional, and was on my way.
This was much less painful and much more professionally handled than I had anticipated. I had visions of being taken into the interrogation room, being interrogated for two hours, missing my flight, being black listed (and blacklisted remains to be seen going forward).
The moral of the story, the system worked for me. It worked in favor of law enforcement, the state of NJ, and our country. All in all, a slightly scary experience for me. In the end, happy it happened. I learned a bit more about TSA policy and procedure. I learned that the Port Authority Police are well trained for such incidents, and are happy to do their jobs.