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Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Weekly Update: TSA Firearm Detections, More Stun Guns at Checkpoints

Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officers at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) prevented a Baltimore, Maryland, man from bringing a .40 caliber handgun loaded with 13 bullets, including one in the chamber, onto his flight on Saturday, July 17. It was the 19th gun caught at the checkpoint so far this year and the seventh caught within a nine-day period.

The previous day, TSA officers at the airport stopped an Alexandria, Virginia, man from bringing a .38 caliber handgun loaded with seven bullets onto his flight.

“The number of guns that our TSA team here at Reagan National Airport have caught this year has skyrocketed,” said Scott T. Johnson, TSA Federal Security Director for Reagan National Airport. “We have caught more guns in just the first seven months of this year than any other full calendar year. The most common excuse we hear is that someone forgot that they had their gun with them. That’s just not acceptable. And let me be clear that even if you have a permit to carry a concealed weapon, you still cannot bring it on to your flight. Bringing a loaded gun to a checkpoint is careless and an accident waiting to happen. If you own a firearm, you need to know where it is at all times.”

On July 12, TSA officers prevented a handgun from making its way onboard an airplane at Milwaukee Mitchell International Airport Monday. During the routine screening of carry-on luggage, a TSA officer spotted the image of a handgun on the X-ray screen. The incident occurred around 8:30 a.m., and TSA officials immediately alerted the Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Office. The firearm was loaded. The traveler, a Pewaukee resident, said he forgot his pistol was in his bag, but he had a concealed-carry permit. A deputy responded to the checkpoint, escorted the passenger to the airport sheriff’s substation, and issued a citation.

On July 14, TSA officers prevented a handgun from making its way onboard an airplane at Dayton International Airport. During the routine screening of carry-on luggage, a TSA officer spotted the image of a handgun on the X-ray screen. TSA immediately alerted the Dayton Airport Police. The firearm was loaded with the safety engaged, and the passenger said he had forgotten it was in his bag.

The following day TSA officers at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport discovered two firearms within a five-minute period during the routine X-ray screening of carry-on luggage at the security checkpoint. The first firearm find occurred at 4:10 a.m. when a TSA officer saw the image of a firearm on the X-ray screen. The second firearm discovery occurred just a few minutes later at 4:15 a.m. in an adjacent screening lane. In both cases, screening was stopped and TSA notified the Port of Seattle Police Department, which responded to the security checkpoint. Both travelers were male and ticketed on the same flight from Seattle to Phoenix Sky Harbor International Harbor. There is no evidence the incidents are linked. These are the 51st and 52nd firearm discoveries by TSA officers at the airport in 2021. In 2020, 53 firearms were stopped at the TSA checkpoints.

At the weekend, TSA officers prevented a Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, man from carrying a .22 caliber handgun along with 22 bullets onto his flight on July 17, at Philadelphia International Airport. When TSA officers spotted the gun in the security checkpoint X-ray machine, they alerted Philadelphia Police, who arrested the Blue Bell, Pennsylvania, resident on weapons charges.

As well as conventional weapons, TSA has seen an increase in the number of stun guns being brought to the security checkpoints in carry-on luggage. The most recent discovery was at Seattle Tacoma on July 15 in the carry-on bag of a traveler flying to Pullman-Moscow Regional Airport. Previously a stun gun was discovered on July 13 in the carry-on bag of a female traveler headed to Las Vegas McCarran International Airport. One day prior to this , another traveler headed to Las Vegas McCarran had a stun gun in her carry-on. And on July 10, TSA officers at Seattle Tacoma discovered two stun guns in carry-ons belonging to people traveling to Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport and Newark International Airport.

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.


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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