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Wednesday, February 1, 2023

TSA Detects Loaded Firearms, Stun Guns and Replica Mine at Checkpoints

Since January 1, 2020, Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officers have discovered more than 1,400 firearms at airport security checkpoints across the country.

Officers at Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC) detected three guns last week during the routine X-ray screening of carry-on luggage at the security checkpoint. These are the 38th, 39th and 40th guns discovered by TSA this year at SLC.

On July 23,  a TSA officer found a loaded Springfield XTE .45 handgun in the carry-on bag of a male traveler headed to Las Vegas McCarran International Airport. 

One day prior, a .38 caliber Smith & Wesson revolver loaded with five rounds of ammunition was detected by a TSA officer in the carry-on bag of a female traveler flying to Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport.

On July 21, a TSA officer detected a loaded 9 mm Glock 19 pistol loaded with six rounds of ammunition in the carry-on bag of a male traveler ticketed to fly to Atlanta Hartsfield International Airport. 

Upon the discovery of each firearm, TSA notified the Salt Lake City Police Department Airport Bureau, which responded to the security checkpoint. Law enforcement interviewed the travelers, confiscated the firearms and allowed each of them to continue on their flights. 

These three firearms found at SLC are among more than 30 firearms detected by TSA nationwide in carry-on luggage last week. 

In addition to the loaded firearms, on July 22, a TSA officer detected a flashlight-style stun gun in the carry-on bag of a female traveler ticketed for travel to Chicago O’Hare International Airport. TSA notified airport law enforcement, which responded and interviewed her. The traveler was offered the opportunity to place the stun gun in checked baggage, but chose to leave the item behind. 

Elsewhere, TSA officers discovered a firearm and ammunition in a passenger’s belongings at a security checkpoint in Mitchell International Airport on July 21. During the X-ray of the passenger’s bag, checkpoint screeners detected a loaded .38 caliber firearm with six rounds of ammunition. TSA officers contacted the Milwaukee County Sheriff Office who questioned the Wisconsin man and confiscated the gun. The traveler stated he forgot the weapon was in his bag and law enforcement officers issued him a citation.

TSA officers at Washington-Dulles International Airport were surprised to find a replica military anti-personnel mine in a woman’s checked bag at the weekend. TSA’s security scanning technology triggered an alarm on the bag, indicating that it needed to be inspected by a TSA officer. The officer opened the bag and uncovered a military style anti-personnel mine, commonly referred to as a Claymore mine. A TSA’s explosives specialist was alerted and immediately responded to inspect the item. It was determined to be a realistic inert replica mine. The item was removed from the bag, which was then cleared for flight. There was no impact to airport operations.

Once again, TSA is reminding the public that firearms can be transported on a commercial aircraft only if they are unloaded, packed in a locked, hard-sided case and placed in checked baggage. Ammunition and firearm parts, including firearm frames, receivers, clips and magazines are also prohibited in carry-on baggage and must be checked. Any type of replica firearm is prohibited in carry-on baggage and must be transported in checked luggage. Stun guns and other electro-shock weapons are never allowed in carry-on luggage. In addition, they must be transported in checked baggage in such a manner that the device is inoperable from accidental discharge.

The recommended civil penalty for a firearm starts at $2,050 and can go up to the statutory maximum of more than $10,250 per violation. Civil penalties for stun guns start at $350 and can go up to $2,050. In addition to civil penalties, individuals who violate rules regarding traveling with firearms will have Trusted Traveler status and TSA PreCheck expedited screening benefits revoked for a period of time. The duration of the disqualification will depend upon the seriousness of the offense and if there is a repeated history of violations.

At the airport during the check-in process, a passenger should go to the airline ticket counter to declare the firearm, ammunition and any firearm parts. Prior to traveling, passengers are encouraged to check gun laws and regulations at their destination to ensure they are in compliance with local and state laws. TSA also recommends travelers check with their airline prior to their flight to ensure they comply with any airline-specific requirements. 

See TSA’s Firearms Factsheet for full guidance on traveling with firearms and ammunition.

Kylie Bielby
Kylie Bielby has more than 20 years' experience in reporting and editing a wide range of security topics, covering geopolitical and policy analysis to international and country-specific trends and events. Before joining GTSC's Homeland Security Today staff, she was an editor and contributor for Jane's, and a columnist and managing editor for security and counter-terror publications.

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