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Multiple Firearm Detections at TSA Checkpoints

Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officers have seen an increase in firearms at the checkpoints, most of which have been loaded, with some checkpoints seeing multiple weapons in the same week or even the same day.

Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officers have seen an increase in firearms at the checkpoints, most of which have been loaded, with some checkpoints seeing multiple weapons in the same week or even the same day.

TSA officers at Pittsburgh International Airport caught five guns in six days at the airport’s security checkpoint. A TSA officer prevented a man from bringing his 9mm handgun loaded with seven bullets onto his flight on September 28. This gun catch came on the heels of guns caught last Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. In each instance when TSA officers spotted the guns in the checkpoint X-ray machine, they alerted Allegheny County Police who then confiscated the weapons. Additionally, each instance resulted in TSA forwarding the incident to be followed up with the issuance of a significant federal financial civil penalty.

“There is no excuse for a traveler who tries to carry a gun onto their flight,” said Karen Keys-Turner, TSA’s Federal Security Director for the airport. “The vast majority of violators claim that they forgot that they had their loaded guns with them. That’s no excuse. Responsible gun owners know where their guns are at all times and they know the proper way to transport a handgun to their destination. The right way to pack a gun for a flight is readily available to the TSA web site and it is fairly simple. First of all the gun needs to be unloaded, which should be obvious. Second is to pack it in a locked hard-sided case. And finally, the case with the unloaded gun needs to be taken to the check-in counter. From there the airline will ensure the gun is transported safely, without any traveler access to the weapon during the flight. If you bring the gun to the checkpoint, you will be the recipient of a hefty fine from TSA.”

TSA officers at Norfolk International Airport caught a Chesapeake, Virginia, man with a 9mm handgun loaded with eight bullets, including one in the chamber, at the airport security checkpoint on Tuesday, September 28, just three days after catching another Chesapeake resident with a loaded gun. The September 25 catch also involved a 9mm handgun. this time loaded with six bullets, including one in the chamber. Following both detections, the Norfolk Airport Authority Police were alerted and confiscated the weapons. The cases were forwarded to the Norfolk Commonwealth’s Attorney for possible criminal prosecution. The men also face a stiff federal financial civil penalty.

Meanwhile, TSA officers stopped two firearms from entering the same Boston Logan International Airport security checkpoint on September 29.  TSA officers detected the two firearms within a couple of hours of  each other. Around 10 am, a TSA officer detected an unloaded 9mm firearm along with a magazine containing seven rounds in a woman’s carry-on bag at a Terminal-A security checkpoint. Approximately two hours later at the same checkpoint, TSA officers identified another firearm in a carry-on bag, this time inside a man’s briefcase. The second gun, also a 9mm, was loaded with a round chambered. There was also a magazine containing seven additional bullets inside the man’s briefcase. In both instances, TSA officers immediately notified Massachusetts State Police and each passenger was cited on state charges. TSA officers have now detected a total of 15 firearms at Boston Logan security checkpoints this year. In 2020, TSA discovered a total of 11 firearms at BOS security checkpoints and 18 in 2019.

The same day, TSA officers at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport prevented a Wayne County, Pennsylvania, man from bringing his loaded .45 caliber handgun and two loaded magazines with 13 bullets each, onto his flight. TSA officers spotted the loaded gun in the man’s carry-on bag. There was one bullet in the chamber. The man, a resident of Lake Ariel, Pennsylvania, told officials that the reason he had his gun was because he is accustomed to carrying around a loaded gun and he forgot to remove it from his bag before he headed to the airport.

The previous weekend, TSA officers at Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD) stopped a man from bringing a hand-made gun loaded with 13 bullets onto his flight on September 26. TSA alerted the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority police who confiscated the gun and cited the man, a resident of Centerville, Virginia, on weapons charges. He also faces a stiff federal financial penalty for carrying a gun to a TSA checkpoint.

“Our TSA officers are very good at their jobs, especially at detecting weapons that should not be carried onto flights,” said Scott T. Johnson, TSA’s Federal Security Director for Washington Dulles. “This individual had access to gun parts and tools to build a fully-functioning gun, but still, it is not allowed to be brought through a security checkpoint.”

TSA officers across the State of Florida have also seen a surge in passengers bringing guns to airport checkpoints, breaking a record in Ft. Lauderdale. TSA officers stopped three guns on September 23 at Ft. Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, all of which were loaded. The same day, TSA officers also intercepted three guns at Miami International Airport, two of them were loaded. And on September 24, TSA officers stopped three guns at Orlando International Airport and another three guns on September 17. All six of those at Orlando International were loaded.

“This is a troubling trend and one that threatens the safety of other passengers and our officers,” said TSA spokesperson Sari Koshetz. “You see the way some travelers fling their bags onto the x-ray belt for screening, posing the risk of an accidental discharge with tragic results.”

More passengers have brought guns to the checkpoints at Ft. Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport in 2021 already than in any other year.  The total is now 103 year-to-date. The previous record was 100 in 2019. Across the state 456 passengers have brought guns to the checkpoints, the same as in all of 2020.

“And with more than three months still to go in 2021, the stage is set for an unfortunate and dangerous record, a record that no airport wants to set,” said Koshetz, “but many will top 2019’s gun numbers even while passenger volumes still remain lower than in that pre-pandemic year.”

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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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