A West Virginia man was arrested by police after Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officers discovered a loaded gun tucked into a pocket of his baby stroller at the security checkpoint at Arnold Palmer Regional Airport on June 24. It was the fourth handgun that TSA officers have caught at the airport so far this year. Only three guns were caught in 2019 when significantly more people were flying prior to the pandemic.
“Our TSA officers physically inspect strollers when they are too large to fit through the checkpoint X-ray unit and in this case, as a TSA officer was visually and then physically inspecting the stroller, he found a loaded handgun hidden in a pocket of the stroller,” said Karen Keys-Turner, TSA’s Federal Security Director for the airport. “That’s a good catch on the part of our officers. Just because an individual is traveling with a young child in a baby stroller doesn’t automatically mean they get a free pass at a checkpoint. It is also an example of why we do not profile travelers.”
The weapon was a .380 caliber handgun loaded with six bullets. TSA officers alerted the Westmoreland County Park Police who confiscated the weapon, questioned the man and arrested him on a weapons charge. The man told officials he was a resident of Morgantown, West Virginia, although his driver’s license indicated he was a resident of Houston, Pennsylvania. The man said that when he and his girlfriend take their dogs and child for a walk that he keeps his loaded gun in the rear stroller pocket and forgot to remove it when they came to catch their flight.
“If you own a firearm, you should know where it is at all times. Not knowing that you have a loaded gun with you is an accident waiting to happen,” Keys-Turner said.
The previous day, a Delaware County, Pennsylvania, man was arrested by police after TSA officers caught him with a loaded gun at a security checkpoint in Terminal A at Newark Liberty International Airport. On June 23, a TSA officer stopped the Havertown, Pennsylvania, man with a 9mm gun loaded with seven bullets, including one in the chamber, inside his carry-on bag. The man told officials that he forgot that he had his loaded gun with him. A TSA officer spotted the handgun when the carry-on bag entered a checkpoint X-ray unit. Port Authority Police were alerted, confiscated the weapon and arrested the man on weapons charges.
One day prior, TSA officers stopped a 28-year-old male from carrying a loaded firearm onto an airplane at Boston Logan International Airport. On June 22, a TSA officer detected a loaded 9mm firearm along with a magazine containing eight rounds in the man’s backpack. Massachusetts State Police responded, took possession of the firearm and issued the Massachusetts resident a summons to appear in court. This was the sixth firearm detection this year by TSA officers at Boston Logan security checkpoints. In 2020 TSA discovered a total of 11 firearms at the airport’s security checkpoints and 18 in 2019.
“Summer travel season is here and it is busy, but our TSA officers continue to do a fantastic job preventing firearms from entering the secure area of the airport,” said Bob Allison, TSA’s Federal Security Director for Massachusetts. “Passengers who are traveling with firearms need to ensure they are properly packed in their checked baggage. When an individual shows up at a checkpoint with a firearm it can slow or shut down security screening until the police resolve the incident.”
TSA reserves the right to issue a civil penalty to travelers who have guns and gun parts with them at a checkpoint. A typical first offense for carrying a loaded handgun into a checkpoint is $4,100 and can go as high as $13,669 depending on any mitigating circumstances. This applies to travelers with or without concealed gun carry permits because even though an individual may have a concealed carry permit, it does not allow for a firearm to be carried onto an airplane.
Passengers are permitted to travel with firearms in checked baggage if they are unloaded, packed separately from ammunition in a locked hardback case and declared at the airline check-in counter.