Friday, November 18, 2011

Update: US Air Passenger "Forgot" About Handgun in His Carry-on Luggage?

As a follow-up to my recent posting on the arrest of US citizen Steven Lee Burditt, 46, who was arrested at Ezeiza International Airport [Buenos Aires] earlier this week with a .380 caliber pistol in his carry-on luggage, claimed that he had "forgotten" the gun in his luggage and traveled with it to Argentina via Houston undetected by US Customs and Border officials’ "rigorous" pre-boarding security screening.

Burditt’s Argentine defense lawyer, Carlos Villegas, told the Buenos Aires Herald that his client had placed the legally owned firearm in a “secret compartment” in his hand luggage at home in the US. The suspect then flew to Argentina from Houston for business purposes on November 8, passing through US customs and security officials who failed to uncover the Colt .380 along with two clips of ammunition.

Nevertheless, last Sunday (November 13) airport security personnel at Ezeiza International Airport identified the firearm and ammunition in his hand luggage during x-ray screening when the Texas resident was attempting to return to Houston on an Air Continental flight.

COMMENT: Forgive my skepticism, but any relatively intelligent, seasoned international traveler knows whether or not they have a firearm and ammunition in their carry-on, particularly given the times we live in. As is often said, "ignorance of the law is no excuse." Hence, a slap on the hand in either Buenos Aires or Houston seems hardly enough to ensure that this adult does not repeat the offense.

Burditt actually told the judge in Buenos Aires that he could provide the serial number and legal paperwork of his firearm. That statement alone suggests that the American is accusing the judge of being very naive, which is clearly not the case.

As I said a few days ago, it is essential that air travelers go through their carry-on luggage thoroughly EVERY time they plan to travel to ensure that there are no Swiss Army knives, nail-clippers or GUNS. Clearly, Burditt does not see this as a "big deal," and should be fined US$1,000 and be banned from flying to Argentina for a year because of his "lapse in memory."

As for TSA in Houston, one would think that they, too, need to have a fireside chat with Burditt, who obviously believes that anyone is going to buy his story of forgetting that he had a handgun and ammo in his carry-0n. Hopefully, they will meet him at international arrivals in Houston with the welcome wagon.

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