Accidental Firearm Discharge Briefly Grounds Flights In Atlanta

As we move closer to one of the busiest travel periods of the year, a passenger’s weapon accidentally discharged, causing widespread panic and the halting of flights at Atlanta Airport. At around 13:30 on Saturday, the incident occurred when a prohibited item (firearm) was spotted while going through the x-ray machine at the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) checkpoint.

Delta Atlanta
Flights were delayed after a gun accidentally went off at Atlanta Airport. Photo: Getty Images.

After flagging the bag for a second search, the passenger to whom the bag belonged lunged forward, grabbing the gun, which subsequently went off. The passenger then fled the scene while carrying the gun down an adjacent exit lane. A statement about the incident released by the TSA said that three people suffered non-life-threatening injuries. They were not shot but got hurt during the panic and evacuation of the area where the incident occurred.

The police are looking for a 42-year-old man

According to the Atlanta Police Department, the weapon belonged to 42-year-old Kenny Wells. When speaking about the incident, CNN quotes Atlanta Police Department Airport Precinct, Commander Reginald L. Moorman, as saying:

“We have taken out warrants for carrying concealed a weapon at a commercial airport, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, discharging a firearm, and reckless conduct,” Moorman said. “We are actively pursuing this individual.”

Characterizing the incident as accidental, Airport spokesperson Andrew Gobeil said the loud noise created a “sense of chaos.” When speaking about what had happened with television crews, a passenger traveling to Alaska, Erika Zeidler, said:

“We thought they were late for a flight, and then more and more people started running,” she told CNN. “There was some screaming, and then somebody stopped and said, ‘There’s a shooter, you need to go.”

TSA guns
So far this year the TSA has found 450 guns at Atlanta Airport. Photo: TSA

Immediately following the incident, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) grounded all flights but quickly lifted the order once the nature of the event unfolded. While details about the weapon have not been made available, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms (ATF) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) are assisting the Atlanta Police with their investigation.

Thanksgiving is one of the busiest travel times of the year in the USA

The shooting scare at Atlanta Hartsfield–Jackson International Airport (ATL) comes at one of the busiest travel times of the year in America as people prepare for the Thanksgiving holiday. According to a TSA spokesperson, the TSA screened over 2.2 million passengers on Friday, the highest number of people traveling since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Other passengers caught up in the panic spoke about escalators and walkways being shut down and aircraft having their doors suddenly closed as passengers were trying to board. In response,  Atlanta-headquartered Delta Air Lines said it was issuing travel waivers for customers impacted by the upheaval.

“With this, the fare difference for customers will be waived when rebooked travel occurs on or before Nov. 23, 2021, in the same cabin of service as originally booked,” the statement said.
“Delta is coordinating with TSA and Atlanta airport officials to accommodate customers as quickly and safely as possible,” the airline said. “We are also working to proactively accommodate customers who may have missed a flight.”

Guns are one of the biggest problems for the TSA

Last month alone, the government agency reported catching 4,650 guns trying to be taken through security, the vast majority of which were loaded with live ammunition. According to a statement released by the TSA yesterday, agents at Atlanta Hartsfield–Jackson International Airport (ATL) have detected 450 guns this year alone.

Delta Air Lines Boeing 737-800
Delta Air Lines has waived all fees for passengers who were disrupted by the incident in Atlanta. Photo: Getty Images

The penalties for trying to smuggle a gun through airport security vary from state to state. In Georgia, however, the laws are very pro-gun. If you have a right to carry permit, the airport security staff only needs to notify you that you’ve left a gun in your bag, and then you just take it out. You would very rarely be prosecuted in Georgia for having a firearm in your baggage.

In its statement about Saturday afternoons events, the TSA highlighted the importance of checking personal items before arriving at the airport, saying:

“Firearms, particularly loaded firearms, introduce an unnecessary risk at checkpoints and have no place in the passenger cabin of an airplane, and represent a very costly mistake for the passengers who attempt to board a flight with them.”

What do you think about the gun scare at Atlanta Airport? Please tell us your thoughts in the comments.

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