TSA officers detected this handgun at a Lehigh Valley International Airport checkpoint on November 5. (TSA)

Weekly Update: TSA Firearm Detections

Officers with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) at Sacramento International Airport found a 9 mm HK-Heckler & Koch P2000 semi-automatic pistol loaded with 10 rounds of ammunition in the bag of a male passenger ticketed for travel to Denver International Airport on November 2. TSA notified the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department, which responded to the security checkpoint. Law enforcement interviewed the traveler and cited him on state charges. The weapon was confiscated and the traveler was permitted to continue on his flight.

On November 5, TSA officers detected a .25 caliber handgun loaded with seven bullets at a security checkpoint at Philadelphia International Airport. It marked the 22nd gun that TSA officers have caught at the airport, two more than were caught during 2019. This is in spite of the fact that there has been a markedly lower passenger volume due to the pandemic.

TSA officers alerted the Philadelphia Police, who arrived at the checkpoint, confiscated the gun and cited the man, a resident of Fogelsville in Lehigh County, Pennsylvania, on weapons charges.

“Let’s be perfectly clear,” said Gerardo Spero, TSA’s Federal Security Director for Philadelphia International Airport. “Under no circumstances may travelers carry their firearms onto an airplane in a carry-on bag and this includes anyone with a concealed carry permit. If you want to travel with your gun, it needs to be unloaded, locked in a hard-sided case and declared with your airline. The airline will ensure that the firearm is transported in the belly of the aircraft with the other checked baggage so that nobody has access to it during the flight.

“Traveler volume at Philadelphia since the pandemic hit has ranged anywhere from 80 to 60 percent lower than last year, and yet with two months remaining in the year, TSA officers at the airport have already exceeded the number of guns caught during all 12 months of 2019 when passenger volume was significantly higher,” Spero said. “This individual now faces a stiff federal financial civil penalty.”

The same day, TSA officers detected a .380 caliber handgun loaded with seven bullets, including one in the chamber, at the security checkpoint at Lehigh Valley International Airport. The officers spotted the loaded gun in the man’s carry-on bag and alerted the local police, who arrived at the checkpoint, confiscated the gun and cited the man, a resident of Lebanon, Pennsylvania. The man told officials that the gun did not belong to him, rather it belonged to his girlfriend.

Also on November 5, TSA officers stopped a man from carrying a loaded .38 caliber handgun and a magazine with 8 bullets onto an airplane at Akron-Canton Airport. At approximately 11:30 a.m., a TSA officer detected the gun in the local man’s carry-on bag. TSA officials immediately alerted the Summit County Sheriff’s Department and a deputy responded who took possession of the weapon and escorted the passenger and weapon away from the checkpoint. This is the third firearm detected at the airport this year. A total of three were detected there last year.

“During this pandemic, TSA officers continue to be vigilant and intercept firearms and prohibited items at the airport security checkpoints,” said Don Barker, TSA Federal Security Director for Ohio. “We recommend that all travelers pack from empty luggage and carry-on bags to ensure prohibited items are not included in their belongings.”

TSA issues civil penalties to travelers who bring guns to a checkpoint. A typical first offense for carrying a loaded handgun into a checkpoint is $4,100. The complete list of civil penalties is on the TSA website. If a traveler with a gun is a member of TSA PreCheck®, that individual will lose their TSA PreCheck privileges for a period of time.

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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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