This handgun was detected by TSA officers in a passenger’s carry-on bag at Richmond International Airport on February 1. TSA photo

Richmond International and Washington Dulles Travelers Caught with Loaded Handguns

A Williamsburg, Virginia, man was issued a summons by police at Richmond International Airport on February 1, after a Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officer spotted a .380 caliber handgun loaded with nine bullets, including one in the chamber, in the traveler’s carry-on bag. In addition, the man was in possession of a magazine loaded with eight more bullets.

TSA officials notified the airport police, who responded to the checkpoint, confiscated the handgun and detained the man for questioning before arresting him on a weapons charge.

Meanwhile, A Fairfax County, Virginia, man was cited by the police after a TSA officer caught the man with a .380 caliber handgun loaded with six bullets in his carry-on bag at a Washington Dulles International Airport checkpoint, also on February 1.

The Washington Dulles TSA officer who was staffing the security checkpoint spotted the handgun when it appeared on the X-ray monitor. TSA immediately contacted the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority Police, who confiscated the handgun and detained the man, a resident of Centerville, Virginia, for questioning before citing him on a weapons charge.

Travelers who bring firearms to the checkpoint are subject to criminal charges from law enforcement and civil penalties from TSA. Even if a traveler has a concealed weapon permit, firearms are not permitted to be carried onto an airplane in their carry-on bags.

Passengers are permitted to travel with firearms in checked baggage if they are properly packaged and declared at the airline check-in counter. Firearms must be unloaded, packed in a hard-sided case, locked and packed separately from ammunition. Firearm possession laws vary by state and locality.

Nationwide last year, 4,432 firearms were discovered in carry-on bags at checkpoints across the country, averaging about 12.1 firearms per day, approximately a 5% increase nationally in firearm discoveries from the total of 4,239 detected in 2018. Eighty-seven percent of firearms detected at checkpoints last year were loaded.

As a reminder, individuals who bring firearms to a security checkpoint are subject to possible criminal charges from law enforcement. Even travelers with concealed firearm permits are not allowed to bring guns onto airplanes in their carry-on bags. If the individual is a TSA PreCheck member, that person could even lose their TSA PreCheck status. In addition, TSA has the authority to assess civil penalties of up to $13,333 for weapons violations. A typical first offense for carrying a handgun into a checkpoint is $4,100.

TSA has details on how to properly travel with a firearm

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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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