Hot Document

Airborne Celebrity Gun Smugglers

What do Harry Connick Jr., Paul Prudhomme, Tommy Lee, Ross Perot Jr., and Rep. Maurice Hinchey, D-N.Y., have in common? They’ve all been caught in the act of carrying guns onto airplanes.

Security consultant Louis Mizell Jr., who last month shared with Slate readers his report on the terrorist applications of toothpaste, has more recently researched instances in which well-known American travelers were found to have guns in their carry-on luggage. Most of these celebrities simply forgot their carry-on was loaded, in much the same way that Phillip F. Thompson, a staff aide to Sen. Jim Webb, absent-mindedly carried the senator’s pistol into the Russell Senate Office Building. (He was promptly arrested.)

Mizell identified 27 instances out of hundreds in which prominent Americans were caught carrying guns onto planes, including two judges, two transportation security executives, the author of the Boy Scouts of America handbook (Page 8), comedian Katt Williams (Page 9), and former Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Steve Howe (Page 8). Mizell prepared the report (click here  for the whole thing) in response to press inquiries following the voluntary surrender last month by Janet Tucker, a flight attendant who carried a gun on a United flight from Atlanta to Washington, D.C.

Judging from the cases in Mizell’s report, Tucker probably won’t do time for her offense. Perot, who was caught carrying a .380 caliber handgun onto * a flight from Seattle (Page 7), was quickly acquitted  because, the jury agreed, “a prudent man” would not intentionally do anything quite so stupid. Except in the movie Con Air, no skyjacker has ever lifted a weapon from a gun-carrying “unwitting accomplice.”

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Correction, April 20: An earlier version of this article inadvertently implied that Perot got his gun through security and brought it onto the plane. In fact, the gun was caught at an airport checkpoint, as was the case in every other incident mentioned here, save Tucker’s. (Return to the corrected sentence.)