TSA officers detected this gun at Richmond International Airport on November 28. (TSA)

Weekly Update: TSA Firearm Detections

Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officers stopped two travelers with handguns just two days before Thanksgiving at the Pittsburgh International Airport security checkpoint on November 24.  

TSA officers spotted each handgun on the checkpoint X-ray monitors. TSA immediately alerted the Allegheny County Police, which responded to the checkpoint, confiscated the weapons and questioned the individuals. The incidents were not related.

The first gun caught was a .25 firearm loaded with six bullets, including one in the chamber. It belonged to a woman who told officials that the gun belonged to her boyfriend. She claimed that she thought that she did not need a permit for the gun because she is a resident of Arkansas. Police confiscated the gun and arrested the woman.

In the second incident, TSA officers detected a 9mm handgun in a Bridgeport, West Virginia, man’s carry-on bag. It was not loaded. Police confiscated the firearm. Each individual faces a stiff federal civil penalty. 

The same day, TSA officers caught an Oklahoma resident with a .380 caliber handgun loaded with six bullets, plus an additional 13 bullets in his carry-on bag at Des Moines International Airport. TSA officials immediately alerted the Des Moines Police, who responded to the checkpoint, and confiscated the firearm from the traveler before citing him on a weapons charge.  

“Individuals who want to fly with their firearms are permitted to do so. This traveler did it the wrong way,” said John Bright, TSA’s Federal Security Director for Iowa. “The right way to transport a firearm is to unload it. Then pack it in a hard-sided case and lock the case. Upon arriving at the terminal, take the locked case to the airline check-in counter and declare that you want to fly with it. The airline will make sure it is stored securely in the underbelly of the plane so that nobody has access to it during the flight.”

Also on November 24, a man was stopped from carrying a loaded .22 caliber handgun and a magazine with 12 bullets onto an airplane at La Crosse Regional Airport. At approximately 5:15 a.m., a TSA officer detected the gun in the Washington man’s carry-on bag. TSA officials immediately alerted the La Crosse Police Department and an officer responded who took possession of the weapon and escorted the passenger and weapon away from the checkpoint.

The following day, TSA officers stopped a man from carrying a loaded 9mm handgun with eight bullets onto an airplane at John Glenn Columbus International Airport. At approximately 6:30 a.m., a TSA officer detected the gun in the local man’s carry-on bag. TSA officials immediately alerted the airport police who responded and took possession of the weapon and escorted the passenger and weapon away from the checkpoint.

At the weekend, TSA officers detected a .380 caliber handgun and a magazine loaded with nine bullets among a Florida man’s belongings as they entered the security checkpoint X-ray machine at Richmond International Airport on November 28.

TSA alerted airport police, who responded to the checkpoint, confiscated the handgun and arrested the man, a resident of Florida. He told officials that he knew that he had his handgun with him when he entered the checkpoint and that he originally wanted to place the gun in a checked bag, but claimed that he did not know where to find the Spirit Airlines check-in counter. Instead, he said he planned to carry his gun to the gate in hopes he might be able to check his gun upon boarding his flight.

“Under no circumstances should anyone attempt to bring a handgun through a security checkpoint,” said Chuck Burke, TSA’s Federal Security Director for Richmond International Airport. “This was the 20th firearm detected this year at Richmond International Airport. Claiming that you are not aware of the location of airline ticket counters is not an excuse. Every airport employee would have informed him of the location. For a gun owner who wants to fly, TSA frequently publishes guidelines on how to transport a firearm in checked baggage only. Attempting to go through a screening checkpoint or an airline gate with a firearm has been against the law for decades. He now faces a stiff federal financial civil penalty.”

And on Sunday, TSA officers detected and prevented two handguns from making their way into the passenger cabin of airplanes at Gerald R. Ford International Airport.

In both incidents, TSA officials immediately alerted the Gerald R. Ford International Airport Police, and officers responded to the checkpoints, removed the local travelers and confiscated the weapons. The two incidents were not related.

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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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