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TSA Firearm Detections Gather Pace Ahead of Holiday Travel Season

Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officers at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) prevented a Gambrills, Maryland, man from bringing his 9mm handgun loaded with 10 bullets onto his flight on November 15.

“We have seen more guns caught at our checkpoints so far this year than the total number we stopped in 2019 and 2020 combined,” said Scott T. Johnson, TSA Federal Security Director for the airport. “If you own a firearm, stop and think about it for a moment before bringing it to the airport. Guns and airports don’t mix. It’s nothing new. Guns have been prohibited from being carried onto airplanes for decades.”

When the gun was spotted in the X-ray machine, the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority police were alerted. The police confiscated the gun and cited the man.

It was the 27th gun caught by TSA at the airport this year. 10 were stopped last year and 14 in 2019.

The same day, TSA officers at Richmond International Airport prevented a man from carrying his .22 caliber handgun loaded with 10 bullets onto his flight. The gun was detected in the X-ray machine among the traveler’s carry-on items at the security checkpoint along with an additional magazine loaded with 10 bullets. TSA alerted police, who responded to the checkpoint, confiscated the handgun and arrested the man, a resident of Montana, on a weapons charge. In addition to being arrested by the police, he also faces a stiff federal financial civil penalty for bringing a loaded gun to an airport security checkpoint.

This was the 17th gun caught by TSA at Richmond International this year. Officers stopped 22 in 2020 and 14 in 2019.

Another man was prevented from bringing his loaded handgun onto a flight on November 17 when TSA officers caught him with the weapon at the Lehigh Valley International Airport security checkpoint. TSA officers spotted the 9 mm handgun loaded with six bullets in the man’s carry-on bag. The gun had one bullet in the chamber. When the TSA officer spotted the gun on the checkpoint X-ray monitor, the police were alerted and confiscated the gun.

This was Lehigh Valley’s 6th gun catch at the checkpoint this year. There were three last year and only one in 2019.

Also on November 17, TSA officers prevented a Philadelphia woman from carrying a .22 caliber handgun loaded with nine bullets onto her flight at Philadelphia International Airport.

“This woman told us that she forgot that she had a loaded gun with her,” said Gerardo Spero, TSA’s Federal Security Director for the airport. “That’s no excuse. If you own a firearm, you need to know where it is at all times. You know where your keys are. You know where your wallet is. You should know where your deadly weapon is. And it should not be with you at a security checkpoint.”

When TSA officers spotted the gun in the security checkpoint X-ray machine, they alerted Philadelphia Police, who confiscated the weapon and cited the woman. She also faces a stiff federal financial civil penalty.

It was the 36th gun stopped by TSA officers at the airport this year. 26 were caught last year, and 20 in 2019.

The next day, TSA officers stopped a man from carrying a loaded firearm onto his flight at Bradley International Airport. During security screening around noon, a TSA officer detected the firearm in the man’s duffel bag. Connecticut State Police responded and found a loaded .40 caliber firearm and a magazine containing twelve rounds. Police eventually arrested the Waterbury, Connecticut resident on a state charge.

 “As the Thanksgiving holiday approaches, we ask travelers to take an extra minute or two to get a good look inside their carry-on bags to ensure that they have no prohibited—or illegal—items,” said William Csontos, TSA’s Federal Security Director for Connecticut. “Passengers who are traveling with firearms need to have a permit, declare with the airline during check-in that they want to travel with their firearm and ensure they are properly packed in their checked baggage.”

This was the sixth firearm detected at the airport’s security checkpoints this year. In 2020 TSA discovered only one firearm at Bradley International security checkpoints, seven in 2019 and nine in 2018.

The same day, TSA officers at Norfolk International Airport caught a Newport News, Virginia, woman with a 9mm handgun loaded with 12 bullets including one in the chamber of the gun, at the airport security checkpoint. When the TSA officers detected the weapon, the Norfolk Airport Authority Police were alerted and confiscated the weapon and arrested the woman. The case was forwarded to the Norfolk Commonwealth’s Attorney for possible criminal prosecution. The woman also faces a stiff federal financial civil penalty.

21 guns have been caught at the airport so far this year, 12 were detected at the checkpoints last year and 15 in 2019.

Also on November 18, a woman was caught with a loaded handgun by TSA officers at Pittsburgh International Airport. The black .380 caliber handgun had a gold-colored trigger and was loaded with six bullets including one in the chamber. The woman also was toting an additional gun magazine with seven bullets and had six additional bullets loose in her carry-on bag. When the TSA officer spotted the gun in the checkpoint X-ray machine, the Allegheny County Police were alerted and confiscated the weapon before arresting the woman. TSA forwarded the incident to be followed up with the issuance of a federal financial civil penalty.

The following day, a woman was stopped with a loaded handgun by TSA officers at the same airport. The small .22 caliber handgun was loaded with two bullets. When the TSA officer spotted the gun in the checkpoint X-ray machine, the Allegheny County Police were alerted and confiscated the weapon. TSA forwarded the incident to be followed up with the issuance of a federal financial civil penalty. The woman, a resident of Meadville, Pa., told officials that she was headed to complete the next step of the hiring process for a new job and did not know that the gun, which was registered to her husband, was among her carry-on items.

This gun was the 32nd to be caught at the checkpoints this year. Last year, TSA officers stopped 21 and 35 were detected in 2019.

The U.S. States Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Pennsylvania announced last month that in firearm incidents at the checkpoint that involve an individual who possesses a valid concealed carry permit, they will be requesting County Sheriffs to rescind that resident’s firearms concealed carry license due to negligence.

Find out how to travel with firearms and ammunition at TSA

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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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