NEWS 8 EXCLUSIVE
DFW AIRPORT — Passengers who have been caught packing heat at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport are not facing prosecution.
Last month alone, Transportation Security Administration agents confiscated seven guns at DFW — about two per week.
Last year, 98 weapons were seized; that annual figure was just 31 in 2008.
But what happened after those gun owners were arrested? News 8 has learned that the answer is often "nothing."
Only Atlanta's airport security force found more guns than DFW last year. DFW Airport's Department of Public Safety sent 84 cases to prosecutors, but that statistic doesn't tell the whole story.
We asked the Tarrant County District Attorney's office for records of what happened to each case. As it turns out, most of the offenders went free.
Of the 84, only 24 were indicted.
In more than two-thirds of the cases, charges were dropped, including the case against Ted Nugent's wife, Shemane. Screeners caught her with a pistol at DFW last August.
We'll never know why some people got indicted and others did not; grand jury proceedings are secret. But Dallas attorney Pete Schulte has an idea.
He represented a half-dozen people arrested with guns at DFW last year, and said all of them had a concealed handgun license.
None of them went to trial.
"That's basically the bottom line," Schulte said. "All six of my clients that I had last year alone who were no-billed from trying to bring a handgun through the checkpoint were CHL carriers. They had no record; they had a legitimate explanation of how the gun was left in the bag."
Schulte said these cases come down to the intent of the traveler.
"If all of these went to trial, most of them would be found not guilty. So our system, in this regard, is good, because it prevents a lot of waste of resources in our criminal justice system," he said.
Shemane Nugent reportedly had a handgun license.
But CHL or not, any traveler with a firearm in a checkpoint is getting arrested, and proving an absent-minded action still costs thousands of dollars in legal fees before you can clear your name — or get your gun back.