Felon Who Discharged Gun In Atlanta Airport Turns Himself In

AP Photo/Michael Dwyer

It’s always a good idea to check your carry-on bags before flying, even if you think you know what’s inside. You might discover you’ve forgotten about something as minor as forgetting about that regular-sized shampoo bottle from your last family vacation trip or something else that TSA is going to throw away if they find it. You might also realize you forgot to take out your pistol and ammunition from your last trip to the range, which is a much more serious concern, especially if you’re not legally allowed to own either.

Kenny Wells, 42, was waiting at the airport’s main security checkpoint Nov. 20 when his bag was pulled aside by a Transportation Security Administration worker for a secondary search, police said. During the search, Wells lunged into the bag and grabbed a gun, causing it to go off, police said. Wells then fled with the gun, which was later found in a trashcan at the airport.

Wells turned himself in to the Clayton County jail, police said Tuesday. He’s charged with carrying a weapon or long gun at a commercial service airport, reckless conduct, discharging of firearms on property of another and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.

Authorities had been looking for Wells since shortly after the gun discharged at the checkpoint, but for whatever reason it took him ten days to surrender to police. Given his previous criminal history, I wouldn’t be surprised at all if he was simply enjoying a few more days of freedom, because he could be facing some serious prison time.

According to the Georgia Department of Corrections, Wells was convicted for possessing a gun as a felon in 2015 and spent two years in prison. He was released in October 2017. Among his other charges were impersonating a police officer and multiple traffic offenses.

Wells was also convicted of possession of a firearm by a felon in 1997, according to DOC records. He was sent to prison for three months in 2000. That followed an earlier felony conviction on two counts of theft by taking.

That’s right. This is Wells third arrest for being a felon in possession of a firearm, and while he got off with some pretty light sentences back in 1997 and 2015, I doubt authorities are going to be as amenable to a sweetheart plea deal this time around.

As much as I believe that individuals who’ve been convicted of a felony (particularly a non-violent felony) should be able to have their Second Amendment rights restored after they’ve served their time, the fact remains that Wells wasn’t legally allowed to own a gun or possess a single round of ammunition. And since Wells was busted after discharging his pistol at the busiest airport in the country, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the U.S. Attorney’s office take this case rather than leaving it to local prosecutors. Wells could be looking at five years or more in a federal prison as a result of his bad decisions and his forgetfulness.

Even if you’re a legal gun owner, there could be consequences for leaving your firearms and ammunition in your carry-on bag. At best you’re looking at missing your flight while you explain to authorities what happened. At worst you could ace criminal charges yourself. Do yourself a favor and take just a couple of minutes to inspect your bag before you throw your clothes and toiletries inside. Chances are you won’t find anything that will get you in trouble with TSA, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. Just ask Kenny Wells.