TSA officers at Pittsburgh International Airport stopped a man with this loaded handgun at the security checkpoint on February 15. (TSA)

Weekly Update: TSA Firearm Detections

Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officers have caught four guns within 12 days at Pittsburgh International Airport with the latest catch taking place on Monday, February 15. The TSA team at Pittsburgh also caught guns on February 12, 8 and 4.

“The prevalence of guns being brought to our checkpoints by travelers has got to stop,” said Karen Keys-Turner, TSA’s Federal Security Director for the airport. “Guns are not allowed to be carried onto planes; with or without a concealed carry permit. That’s no secret. It’s common sense. No guns on planes has been a policy since long before TSA was established 19 years ago, so it’s nothing new. All of these individuals now face federal financial civil penalties that can cost them thousands of dollars.”

Monday’s gun catch took place when a TSA officer stopped a man from Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, with a 9mm handgun loaded with 18 bullets. The TSA officer spotted the gun on the checkpoint X-ray machine’s monitor as the man’s belongings were being screened. TSA immediately alerted the Allegheny County Police, which responded to the checkpoint, confiscated the weapon and questioned the man, a resident of Wexford, Pennsylvania.  

Also on February 15, TSA officers prevented a loaded handgun from making its way onboard an airplane at John Glenn Columbus International Airport. The incident occurred around 3:30 p.m., and TSA officials immediately alerted Columbus Regional Airport Authority Police. The traveler stated she forgot the firearm was inside her bag. Officers responded to the checkpoint, cited the traveler, and confiscated her weapon, loaded with six rounds of ammunition. It was the fourth firearm detected at the airport this year.

Chicago O’ Hare TSA officers have stopped three handguns in separate and unrelated incidents from February 13 through February 16. First, a .38 revolver loaded with five rounds of ammunition was caught in a checkpoint X-ray machine on February 13. On February 15, a firearm and ammunition in a carry-on bag were stopped by a TSA officer at an X-ray checkpoint. And the next day, a loaded 9mm firearm in a carry-on bag was stopped at a checkpoint X-ray machine. In all incidents, TSA officers contacted the Chicago Police Department for further action. 

“Individuals who want to fly with their firearms are permitted to do so as long as they follow the regulations for transporting their weapon,” said Dereck Starks, TSA’s Federal Security Director for Illinois. “If you want to travel with your firearm, the first thing you should do is make sure it is unloaded. Then pack it in a hard-sided case and lock the case. Upon arriving at the airport, take the 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.”

TSA officers at Norfolk International Airport stopped a gun from getting through the checkpoint yesterday on February 16. It was the third gun caught at the checkpoint during just the first seven weeks of 2021. The 9mm handgun was loaded with 15 bullets including one in the chamber. When the TSA officer detected the gun in the checkpoint X-ray machine, the Norfolk Airport Authority Police were alerted, responded to the checkpoint and confiscated the weapon from the Northampton County, Virginia, resident. The man was also issued a summons and the case was forwarded to the Norfolk Commonwealth’s Attorney for possible criminal prosecution of the Cape Charles, Virginia, man. He also faces a stiff federal financial civil penalty for carrying a gun to a TSA checkpoint.

On February 17, TSA officers caught an Armstrong County, Pennsylvania, man with a .380 caliber handgun loaded with six bullets at the Arnold Palmer Regional Airport security checkpoint. The gun was spotted by a TSA officer when it appeared on the checkpoint X-ray machine’s monitor. TSA contacted the Westmoreland County Park Police, who arrived at the checkpoint and detained the man, a resident of Kittanning, Pennsylvania, for questioning. He was permitted to catch his flight without the gun and now faces a federal financial civil penalty.  It was the first gun caught at the airport this year. Last year TSA officers also caught one gun at the airport’s checkpoint.

TSA reserves the right to issue a civil penalty to travelers who have guns and gun parts 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 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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