TSA officers detected this firearm at the Indianapolis International Airport checkpoint. (TSA)

Weekly Update: TSA Firearm Detections

Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officers continue to detect firearms at checkpoints across the country. Last week began with TSA officers at Washington Dulles International Airport stopping an Arizona man from bringing a handgun loaded with eight bullets and a box with 49 additional bullets onto an airplane on November 16.

A TSA officer who was staffing the security checkpoint spotted the handgun when it appeared on the checkpoint X-ray monitor. TSA officials immediately alerted the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority Police, who confiscated the handgun and briefly detained the man for questioning before citing him on a weapons charge.

The following day, a South Dakota man was stopped by TSA officers with a .380 caliber handgun loaded with six bullets at the Eppley Airfield checkpoint. TSA officers caught the handgun as it entered the checkpoint X-ray machine. Omaha Airport Authority Police were alerted and confiscated the gun. The man claimed that he forgot that he had his loaded gun with him. He now faces a stiff federal financial civil penalty.

Perhaps the most noteworthy detection last week was at Philadelphia International Airport. It was the third time in three weeks that someone who works at the airport was found to have a firearm where they shouldn’t.

In last week’s case, officers detected a 9mm caliber handgun in the backpack of an individual who works at one of the restaurants inside the terminal as he entered the security checkpoint on his way to work in Terminal B on November 18. It also marked the 24th gun that TSA officers have caught at the airport checkpoints, which is four more than were caught during 2019.  TSA officers alerted the Philadelphia Police, who arrived at the checkpoint, confiscated the unloaded handgun and cited the man. He told officials that he forgot that he had his gun with him.

On November 19, TSA officers stopped a woman from carrying a loaded 9mm handgun with seven bullets onto an airplane at Indianapolis International Airport. An officer detected the gun in the local woman’s carry-on bag. TSA officials immediately alerted the Indianapolis Airport Police Department and an officer responded who took possession of the weapon and escorted the passenger and weapon away from the checkpoint.

“As we approach the holiday travel season, our officers remain vigilant to stop these prohibited items from boarding planes,” said TSA’s Indiana Federal Security Director Aaron Batt. “Firearms found at the security checkpoint can cause travelers to miss flights, delays while going through security, fines, and civil penalties.”

Also on November 19, TSA officers at Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport caught a Florida man with a .38 caliber handgun loaded with five bullets at the checkpoint. A TSA officer spotted the handgun in the man’s carry-on bag while it was inside the checkpoint X-ray machine. TSA immediately alerted the Maryland Transportation Authority Police, who arrived at the checkpoint, confiscated the firearm and detained the man for questioning before arresting him on weapons charges. The man told officials that he had driven from Florida to Maryland with a friend and was ticketed to fly home. He said that he forgot that he had his loaded gun with him. He now faces a stiff federal financial penalty. This is a prime example of why TSA recommends people unpack before they pack as they may not remember that their firearm is in the bag before they travel to the airport.

TSA reserves the right to issue a civil penalty to travelers who have guns 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. If a traveler with a gun is a member of TSA PreCheck®, that individual will also lose their TSA PreCheck privileges.

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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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