July 11--An Eagle Point man who hid his loaded gun in a planter box at the Portland International Airport last month said he had forgotten he brought the weapon with him on his trip.
Soren Muir Johnson, 69, said he regularly carries his gun and hadn't intended to bring it with him on his flight to the Philippines June 24.
When he remembered he was carrying the weapon, Johnson asked a Transportation Security Administration officer what he should do with it, and the officer directed him to declare the gun at the ticket counter and check it with his other luggage.
Instead of checking the gun, Johnson was seen by a behavior detection officer trying to bury the .22-caliber pistol in a planter a few minutes later.
"I thought it would be hidden well," said Johnson. "It was just stupid."
When Johnson returned to the security checkpoint, TSA officers detained him. He was arrested on a misdemeanor charge of reckless endangerment and taken to Multnomah County Jail.
Johnson was arraigned in Multnomah County Circuit Court the following day, pleaded not guilty to the charge and was released on his own recognizance.
Johnson said he didn't think anyone would find the gun in the planter box because he had hidden it carefully.
"It was impossible to find," said Johnson. "It was hidden so well."
Johnson said he lives on a rural property on Antelope Road where there are a lot of animals and regularly carries the gun to protect himself and his 8-year-old daughter.
"I always have a gun in my pocket as a last resort," he said.
Johnson planned to retrieve the gun after he returned from his trip.
Though he remembered to remove the knife he also normally carries, Johnson said the loaded firearm slipped his mind.
"I carry it all the time," he said. "I forgot I had it."
During a phone interview from the Philippines, Johnson said he believed he deserved to be punished for his careless actions.
"I deserve it," Johnson said. "It was a stupid mistake."
According to TSA, travelers can bring a weapon only if it is unloaded and in a locked, hard-sided container within checked baggage.
Travelers must also declare any firearms they have when checking their baggage, and ammunition must be carried in a separate box or packaging specifically designed to carry ammunition.
In the future, Johnson said he will always leave his gun at home when traveling.
"Never again," he said.
Johnson said the police at the airport were understanding of his mistake, and the court permitted him to travel to Japan and to the Philippines, where Johnson was Tuesday.
Johnson said he had planned the trip to work and help out his family living in the Philippines.
Johnson said he hired a lawyer and will be back from the Philippines in time for his first hearing on Aug. 3 in Portland.
Copyright 2012 - Mail Tribune, Medford, Ore.