Grandmother fined over toy gun?

July 17, 2012 3:05:51 PM PDT
A toy gun from the popular North Carolina Tweetsie Railroad got a grandmother into big trouble, leading her to contact ABC11 I-Team Troubleshooter Diane Wilson for help.

Genita Franks said she took the cap gun, along with a bunch of other favorite toys, with her when she flew to visit her 2-year-old grandson in Iowa.

She said the visit went great, until they were packing to come home.

"We were leaving the motel and he had his toys all over the bed," Franks said. "I just gathered them all up and stuffed them in my carry-on suitcase."

She said she didn't think that the toy gun would likely set off alarms, until a security stopped her and her son and fired tough questions at them for about an hour.

"I had my purse and I put the carry-on on the conveyer belt and it kept backing up and backing up and when it did that I knew something must be wrong," Franks said. "Very big deal about it, they said the fact that it looked like a real gun even though it had the orange tip, definitely looked like a toy gun, bought it at Tweetsie Railroad. They asked why I had it and of course I said I had it with all of the toys ? asked me if they could destroy the gun and I said certainly I have nothing to hide.

She said she had nothing to hide, she has been a teacher for 25 years and her husband is a retired state trooper and now a preacher.

She said she realized she made a mistake, but said it's one anyone with children or grandchildren could make, especially in a hurry.

"It's just ridiculous, they can clearly see it's a toy gun," Franks said. "I didn't mean to have it in there; it was just with all the other toys."

Eventually, the Transportation Security Administration destroyed the gun in front of her and let her catch her flight home. 

Franks said she didn't give it much more thought until eight months later when she received a letter from the Department of Homeland Security.  Inside, was a fine for $250 or $125 if she paid within 30 days.

"It was very shocking, I couldn't imagine, they didn't issue me a citation that day," she said. "I wasn't told there would be any other actions needed, I just assumed them destroying the gun was all that was needed. It's just a silly thing to me. Drop the fine, I'm not guilty of anything, it was taken care of at the airport was my assumption.

Not wanting to pay any amount, Franks got in touch with me and I reached out to the TSA.

A representative said Franks was given the option to either place the toy gun in her checked bag or surrender it, which she did.  He added that replica firearms are prohibited and any passenger found with one is issued a notice of violation.  He did admit it does not usually take eight months for that citation to be issued, but said their volume level is high as they screen 1.7 million passengers daily. 

He then told me Franks had the option to request an informal conference call with a TSA official, which she later did.  During that call, the TSA agreed to waive the fine altogether, and just issued her a warning.

Franks said she learned her lesson and agreed that even a toy gun can be a problem at an airport, or on a plane.

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