Rock guitarist Rick Derringer was found with a loaded gun in his carry-on bag after stepping off a Delta Air Lines flight from Cancún, Mexico.
ATLANTA — Rock guitarist Rick Derringer told a federal air marshal that he had kept his gun with him on commercial airline flights 30 to 50 times a year, and was only detained last month at Atlanta’s airport near the end of a trip from Mexico, authorities said.
He was found with a loaded gun in his carry-on bag after stepping off a Delta Air Lines flight from Cancún, Mexico, and was charged in Atlanta, court records show.
Derringer, 69, told the air marshal that having his gun with him had never posed a problem until this year, when it was found at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport on his return from Mexico, a court affidavit states.
“Derringer explained that he was aware that his pistol was in his carry-on bag but he thought that it was acceptable to carry a pistol on an airplane,” according to the criminal complaint filed this week in U.S. District Court in Atlanta.
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Derringer, who sang the 1965 hit “Hang on Sloopy” with The McCoys and later recorded “Rock and Roll, Hoochie Koo,” was charged this week with unlawfully entering the Atlanta airport’s secure area Jan. 9.
Airline passengers are allowed to bring guns as checked baggage only. The unloaded firearms must be in locked, hard-sided containers that are declared to the airline when checked, according to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). Ammunition also is prohibited in carry-on bags.
The Kel-Tec pistol with six rounds of ammunition was found during a search of Derringer’s bag after his flight had landed in Atlanta, authorities said. Since he had arrived on an international flight, he was being rechecked by security to continue on to Sarasota, Fla., when the weapon was found, court records indicate.
A separate gun clip with bullets in Derringer’s bag — not the pistol itself — aroused suspicions when it was detected as it passed through an X-ray machine, court records show. The bag was rescreened, and the screener again noticed the gun clip and ammunition.
TSA supervisors and Atlanta police had been called by then, and the bag was searched. Found were the loaded pistol with six rounds, and the separate gun clip with six more rounds, court records show.
Derringer meant no harm, said his manager, Kenn Moutenot. He thought he was permitted to have the gun because he has a license to carry one, Moutenot said in a statement.
Derringer has a Florida pistol permit that’s valid through 2020, court records indicate. But numerous signs in the Atlanta airport warn passengers that they are not allowed to carry guns on airplanes.
Derringer had been processed through Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport on Jan. 5 and then flew to Atlanta and on to Cancún, records indicate.
“The person who missed this in the screening was terminated,” said Rick Piccolo, president and CEO of the Sarasota airport.
The Sarasota airport uses private screeners who are overseen by the TSA, Piccolo said. Private screeners in U.S. airports must comply with all TSA security-screening procedures, the agency says.
But many banned items have gone undetected by screeners at several airports during tests dating back as far as 2002, government audits show.
In 2015, some U.S. Congress members said fake weapons, explosives and other contraband went unnoticed in 67 of 70 tries — about 96 percent of the time — at TSA airport checkpoints.
Derringer told the air marshal during questioning in Atlanta that he had also passed through security in Cancún and was able to board the Delta flight.
Passenger carry-on bags are checked at the Mexican airport, and guns are not allowed, said Adolfo Castro, director of Grupo Aeropuertos del Sureste, which runs the Cancún airport. Castro said he didn’t know how Derringer could have boarded a flight with a weapon, adding, “This will have to be investigated.”
Delta representatives did not return messages Friday.