Secret TSA room houses weapons surrendered at Memphis airport - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Guns, knives among items found at Memphis airport

Toy pistols are surrendered because TSA workers can't tell if they're real or not during X-ray screenings. Toy pistols are surrendered because TSA workers can't tell if they're real or not during X-ray screenings.

(WMC-TV) - Knives disguised as credit cards, ink pens that can draw blood, loaded guns and plenty of ammunition – those are just some of the things travelers at Memphis International Airport tried to get past security.

All of those items were confiscated in Memphis and held inside a secret storage area at the airport.

Frequent fliers are familiar with having to take off their shoes and coats when they go through airport security but despite signs posted around the airport, passengers continue to try and bring prohibited items on board.

"I wish that they would pack properly so that I can get through and make my flight connection too," said Lisa Milam, a traveler from Bartlett.

What happens to all those items that don't make it through the checkpoint?

Kevin McCarthy, federal security director for the Transportation Security Administration in Memphis, took Action News 5 to its secret storage room at Memphis International.

"Last year here in Memphis, we found 11 weapons at our checkpoints," he said. "Across the country, over 1,300 weapons were found."

The TSA doesn't keep firearms that are surrendered. But McCarthy had a photograph of a gun with a round in the chamber that was found at the airport the day before Action News 5's cameras visited.

"The most common answer to what happened is, ‘I forgot, I didn't realize it was there,'" McCarthy said. "That's not an excuse."

But there are mounds of ammunition, brass knuckles, tasers, mace and knives of all shapes and sizes in the storage room.

Some of those knives are cleverly concealed. One appears to be a credit card at first glance, but it folds open to reveal a knife. There's also an ink pen that conceals a knife inside.

There are also other common items the TSA says can be used as weapons.

Power tools, exercise weights, a staple gun, a meat tenderizer, even golf clubs must be checked at the ticket counter.

Boxes overflow with pocket knives inside the secret room.

But that's not all TSA collects at the airport.

Liquids over the three ounce limit also pile up there.

In another secret room the TSA quarantines hazardous materials; 6,000 pounds were surrendered last year.

"Hazardous materials like cleaning solutions," said McCarthy. "People actually come with paints, paint thinners, cans of paint thinner."

With the exception of a firearm, passengers caught with what they can't carry on to the plane do have options.

"They can give it to a friend out in the lobby," McCarthy said. "If they're from here, they can go out to their car. If they have time, they can put it in the truck and secure it."

Or, they can voluntarily surrender it to the TSA.

Some airports even have a mail station where passengers can mail prohibited items back to themselves. However, that's not available at Memphis International Airport. So once you surrender an item it's gone for good.

But items surrendered and forgotten don't stay at the airport forever.

Hazardous materials are sent to a company for safe disposal and the TSA uses confiscated cleaning solutions which saves it five to seven percent a year on disposal fees.

Other liquids get thrown away.

"Beer, wine, mouthwash - we actually put that down the drain," said McCarthy.

Ammunition is donated to local law enforcement.

Items worth less than $500 are given to the state to be auctioned off. Items worth more than $500 go to a central TSA warehouse. That includes items forgotten at checkpoints like computers, which are erased then used by the government, donated to schools or resold.

"Coming to the airport is not the time to be checking your bag," McCarthy said. "When we find something, and we are going to find it, that holds up the whole process.

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