For taking weapons from passenger baggage at St. Louis Lambert Airport, a former Southwest Airlines baggage handler was sentenced to prison.
Southwest Airlines has already fired Mark Hunter of St. Louis for thefts that happened over a 15-month period between the end of March 2020 and August 2021.
Hunter agreed to a plea deal in which he admitted to knowingly possessing or receiving one or more stolen guns. Only after the theft of at least seven weapons was reported by Southwest passengers at the airport did a full-scale investigation into Hunter’s illegal activities begin.
Hundreds of employee scheduling records were cross-referenced with the dates and times that the firearms were reported missing in a combined investigation by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).
Hunter became the target of the inquiry as a result of this process, and after being confronted by detectives, he acknowledged stealing five weapons from passenger baggage.
Only one of the stolen guns was found throughout the investigation.
Passengers on domestic flights in the United States are allowed to check unloaded guns as long as they are transported in a hard-sided case that can be securely closed.
Attempting to transport a firearm in hand luggage is unlawful, but it usually results in merely a civil penalty. Despite decreasing passenger numbers, the number of weapons discovered in hand luggage by the TSA has increased during the pandemic.
A loaded pistol was inadvertently discharged at a TSA passenger screening checkpoint last week, forcing Atlanta Hartsfield International Airport to be partially evacuated.
Passengers scrambled for cover in fear of an active shooter on the loose as the passenger who attempted to take the pistol onboard an aircraft fled the area.