SALT LAKE CITY — A prominent Utah businessman is the latest person to be nabbed at the Salt Lake City International Airport for allegedly having a loaded gun in his carry-on baggage.
Overstock.com CEO Patrick Michael Byrne, 50, was arrested Wednesday after Transportation Security Administration officers said they discovered a firearm in a bag being taken through a security checkpoint. The bag belonging to Byrne contained a Glock 23 .40-caliber pistol in the front pocket, according to a Salt Lake County Jail report.
"When asked, (Byrne) denied knowing the weapon was present in his luggage," the report states.
Police say the weapon contained a dozen .40-caliber rounds in the magazine; however, no rounds were in the chamber. Byrne was taken into custody by Airport Authority Police and booked into jail for investigation of carrying a concealed weapon.
"Patrick was traveling and packed a bag that he hadn't used in quite some time," said Overstock President Jonathan Johnson. "He didn't realize that he had left a gun in the bag."
Johnson said Byrne is a concealed weapon permit holder who is trained in firearm safety and would not intentionally put anyone in danger.
"It was an innocent mistake," he said. "He was in a hurry to catch a plane and packed a bag he hadn't used before. It hasn't happened before and hopefully won't happen again."
The gun was among three firearms detected in three days at Salt Lake City International Airport security checkpoints. Additionally, other items discovered during the same period included swords and a large artillery shell.
A fourth gun was discovered at a checkpoint last week. What may be even more disturbing was the fact that all of the firearms were loaded when TSA officers found them during routine screening of carry-on bags.
Along with the firearms, airport officials discovered a set of samurai swords at the checkpoint and a military-issue, 105mm artillery shell casing with the primer intact in a passenger's checked baggage.
After more than a decade of heightened security at airports nationwide, some travelers still try to get what would seem to be obviously banned items past security. Last year, TSA officers discovered 20 firearms at the Salt Lake City International Airport. Nationally, 1,525 firearms were detected — more than an average of four per day.
Firearms, ammunition, firearm parts and realistic replicas of firearms are always prohibited in carry-on baggage. However, such items can be transported in checked baggage provided the traveler declares them to the airline during the ticket counter check-in process, said Vera Adams, federal security director for Utah.
“The issue (is) that anytime you have any munitions or ordinances in checked baggage, it can cause a lot of operations to shut down,” she said.
"When asked, Byrne denied knowing the weapon was present in his luggage."
Adams noted that firearms in checked baggage must be unloaded and stored in a locked, hard-sided container.
TSA officials said passengers should contact their airline for specific firearm and ammunition policies and to check local laws related to the carry and transport of firearms.
Adams noted that in addition to facing local or state criminal charges, TSA reserves the right to levy a civil penalty against the passenger of up to $7,500 for bringing a dangerous weapon such as a firearm to the checkpoint.
She said to preclude any issues and to enhance air travel safety, passengers should do their part to avoid traveling with dangerous items.
“Make sure you check your luggage … and it's clear of any firearms or ammo,” Adams said. “Leave your firearms at home."