According to Reuters
, security screeners at the Georgia airport saw the .22-caliber Magnum pistol come through the x-ray machine.
When the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) reported the firearm to the Atlanta police, officers arrived on the scene. As the 43-year-old owner of the gun was explaining to Officer N.J. Phillips how to clear the ammunition from the loaded gun, the .22-caliber pistol went off.
"I was grazed by a pellet fragment on the left side of my face. However, there were no visible injuries." the officer wrote in the report.
The ammunition in the gun is known as a "snake shot", and is used to kill small animals, authorities said.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
reported Richard Popkin, 43, told responding officers he did not realize the gun was in his messenger bag. Poplin lives in Georgia, but was reportedly traveling to California. He also told the officers he uses the gun to "scare" people off.
the police report noted the man said he had intentions of checking the pistol with his checked luggage, but removed it due to concerns about the weight limit for checked bags.
Popkin told Atlanta's Fox affiliate
the "entire incident was a big mistake."
According to CNN, TSA said in a statement their agents followed proper protocol when they discovered the firearm. The agency also said, "TSA also has opened an investigation and has the authority to level a civil penalty when a firearm is brought to a checkpoint."
Per regulation, firearms are not permitted in carry-on bags or at security checkpoints. Loaded firearms are not permitted and they must be declared during flight check-in.
The TSA website
says, "Travelers may only transport unloaded firearms in a locked, hard-sided container in or as checked baggage. Firearms, ammunition and firearm parts, including firearm frames and receivers, are prohibited from carry-on baggage."
Atlanta Police arrested Popkin for carrying a weapon in an unauthorized place, and he was taken to Clayton County Jail, and subsequently released on bond. He is due back in court in two weeks.