TSA officers at Pittsburgh International Airport detected this handgun at the airport checkpoint on August 4. (TSA photo)

Weekly Update: TSA Firearm Detections

If the start of August is anything to go by, it looks like being another month for a high rate of firearm detections at airport checkpoints. TSA officers discovered more firearms nationwide in the first five days of August compared to the same five days of August 2019. This is despite a 70% reduction in the number of people traveling.

Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officers at Pittsburgh International Airport detected two loaded firearms at the checkpoint last week. On August 4, they stopped a Fayette County, Pennsylvania, man from boarding with a loaded handgun loaded with six bullets. A TSA officer spotted the .380 caliber handgun in his carry-on bag on the checkpoint X-ray machine’s monitor. TSA contacted the Allegheny County Police, which responded to the checkpoint, and confiscated the handgun. The man told officials that he forgot that he had his loaded gun with him.

Three days later, the airport’s TSA officers stopped a Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, man with a 9 mm handgun loaded with five bullets in his carry-on bag. In this case, police allowed the man to return the handgun to his vehicle. However, he is facing stiff federal civil penalties.

At Detroit Metropolitan Airport on August 4, TSA officers discovered a firearm and ammunition in a passenger’s belongings at the security checkpoint. During the X-ray screening of the passenger’s bag, the TSA officer detected a loaded .38 caliber firearm with two magazines of ammunition. TSA officers contacted law enforcement officers who questioned the Ohio man and confiscated the gun. The traveler was cited and missed his departing flight.

Meanwhile, TSA officers  stopped an Alabama woman from bringing two handguns onto a plane at Norfolk International Airport, also on August 4. A TSA officer detected the guns as the woman’s carry-on items entered the checkpoint X-ray machine. Airport police were contacted, responded to the checkpoint, confiscated both weapons and detained the woman for questioning before citing her on weapons charges. The woman was carrying a beige .40 caliber semi-automatic handgun and a purple .38 caliber revolver. Neither weapon was loaded.

Hollywood Burbank Airport TSA officers detected a loaded firearm on August 5 at around 6 a.m. during the routine X-ray screening of carry-on luggage at the security checkpoint. The weapon, a 9 mm Glock 19 pistol loaded with 15 rounds of ammunition, was discovered in the bag of a male passenger ticketed for travel to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. Upon discovery of the firearm, TSA notified the Hollywood Burbank Airport Police, which responded to the security checkpoint. The traveler was cited on a local charge, the weapon was confiscated and the traveler was permitted to continue on his flight.

August 5 also saw two firearms detected at  Chicago O’Hare International Airport. At 7:25 a.m., a TSA officer detected a loaded 9mm firearm with 14 rounds of ammunition in a passenger’s carry-on bag. Then at 9:03 a.m., another TSA officer detected a .38 caliber firearm loaded with seven rounds of ammunition. In both incidents, TSA officers contacted the Chicago Police Department who removed the firearms and the passengers from the checkpoint areas. 

TSA officers at El Paso International Airport detected three loaded 9 mm handguns in travelers’ carry-on bags during the first five days of August. On August 3, they detected a loaded 9mm handgun with eight bullets in the carry-on bag of a passenger. The following day, they discovered another 9mm handgun loaded with seven bullets. Then on August 7, officers detected a third 9mm handgun loaded with seven bullets including one in the chamber. In each incident TSA officers detected the firearms as they entered the checkpoint X-ray machine. They immediately alerted the El Paso Police Department, which responded to the checkpoint, interviewed each traveler, and cited them on weapons charges. There was no indication the three firearm discoveries were linked.

On Saturday August 8, TSA officers caught a Georgia resident with a 9 mm handgun loaded with five bullets in his carry-on bag at LaGuardia Airport. A TSA officer spotted the handgun on the checkpoint X-ray machine’s monitor. TSA immediately alerted the Port Authority Police, which responded to the checkpoint, and detained the man for questioning before arresting him on weapons charges. In addition, the man faces a federal civil penalty. 

TSA recently announced that its firearm detection rate for July 2020 was three times higher than that of July 2019 despite a much lower number of travelers.

Read TSA’s guidance on traveling with firearms

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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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