What happens when the TSA takes your weapons away

by Aaron Smith, CNN Money  |  published on December 12, 2012

Last year the Transportation Security Administration collected 888,000 items — from knives and scissors to snow globes and sunglasses — that were confiscated or left behind by airline passengers as they boarded their flights.

But airport contraband has an afterlife.

It ends up in state-run stores, where thrifty customers can rummage through bins of objects from the TSA’s no-fly list. In warehouses around the country, bargain-seekers browse through crates of knives, tools and even box cutters, the weapon used in the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Everything is sold at a steep discount, sometimes for $1 apiece, and sometimes by the pound.

“These places actually collect what’s discarded at our checkpoints,” said TSA spokesman David Castelveter. “We are required to give those leftover items to the state governments, and then they decide what to do with it.”

The “leftover stuff” includes not just items that can be used as weapons, like meat cleavers, ice picks, sabers, bows and arrows, nunchucks, hammers, power saws and cattle prods, but also forgotten items like books and jewelry. Some of the items are sold at state-run stores and some are auctioned off in bulk on the website Govdeals.com.

Pennsylvania press secretary Troy Thompson said that his state has made $800,000 in revenue from the online auctions since they began in 2004. The state’s Harrisburg store, which sells things surrendered at airports in New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Maryland and Washington, D.C., has logged $15,000 in sales since it opened last year.

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