TSA officers stopped this gun at Newark-Liberty International Airport on March 30. (TSA)

Weekly Update: TSA Firearm Detections

A local man was arrested after Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officers caught him with a 9mm handgun loaded with 10 bullets at one of the New York-John F. Kennedy International Airport security checkpoints on Monday, March 29. It was the first firearm stopped at the checkpoint this year.

TSA officials alerted the Port Authority Police, who responded to the checkpoint, confiscated the gun, which was in the man’s backpack, and arrested him on local weapons charges. In addition to his arrest, the man, a resident of Staten Island, N.Y., also faces a stiff federal financial civil penalty for bringing a gun to a security checkpoint.

The following day TSA officers caught a man with a gun in his carry-on luggage at Newark-Liberty International Airport. It transpired that the baggage belonged to his traveling companion, who took responsibility and ended up getting arrested. TSA officials spotted the 9mm handgun in the carry-on luggage as it entered the checkpoint X-ray unit in Newark’s Terminal B. The gun was not loaded. Port Authority Police were alerted, confiscated the weapon and detained the man for questioning. He explained to officials that the luggage belonged to his aunt, with whom he was traveling. He told officials that his aunt was returning a rental vehicle and would soon be coming to the checkpoint. When she arrived, the woman, a California resident, took responsibility for the bag and its contents and was arrested by police and charged with violating local weapons laws. In addition to her arrest, she also faces a stiff federal financial civil penalty for bringing a gun to a security checkpoint.

Last year, 11 guns were stopped at the Newark-Liberty checkpoint, equal to the number stopped in 2019 when there were far more passengers. The gun caught on March 30 was the second that TSA officers have stopped at the checkpoint so far this year, perhaps illustrating that travelers using New York area airports are beginning to take heed and follow the rules for traveling with firearms.

However, the same is not true across the country. On April 1, TSA officers at Pittsburgh International Airport caught a Butler County, Pennsylvania, man with a .45 caliber handgun loaded with five bullets at the security checkpoint. It was the 10th handgun stopped by TSA officers at the airport so far this year. A total of 21 guns were stopped last year and 35 were caught at the checkpoint in 2019 when there were more travelers.

When the Pittsburgh TSA officer spotted the gun in the checkpoint X-ray machine on April, the Allegheny County Police were alerted, came to the checkpoint, questioned the man and confiscated the gun. The man, a resident of Cranberry, Pennsylvania, had the gun in his backpack. He now faces a federal financial civil penalty for bringing a gun to the checkpoint.

“It’s important to understand that even if someone has a concealed carry permit, they are not permitted to carry it onto an airplane. The county police might not arrest someone with a concealed carry permit, but that’s certainly not going to stop TSA from issuing a stiff federal civil penalty to someone who tries to carry a gun onto an airplane. That could cost someone thousands of dollars,” said Karen Keys-Turner, TSA’s Federal Security Director for the airport. 

Also on April 1, TSA officers stopped a man from carrying a loaded firearm onto his flight at T.F. Green Airport. This was the first firearm detected at the airport this year. During security screening, a TSA officer detected the .40 caliber firearm pistol along with seven rounds in the passenger’s carry-on bag during. Rhode Island Police responded to the checkpoint and confiscated the firearm.

The following day, TSA officers stopped a woman from carrying a loaded pistol onto her flight at Dane County Regional Airport. This was the first firearm detected at the airport since 2019 when there were four detected that year.  At around 7 a.m. on April 2, a TSA officer detected a .380 pistol along with two magazines totaling 12 rounds in the passenger’s carry-on bag during security screening. TSA immediately alerted a Dane County Sheriff who took possession of the firearm. The Waunakee, Wisconsin, resident was then allowed to continue.

On April 4, TSA officers stopped a man from carrying a loaded firearm onto his flight at Bradley International Airport. It was the first firearm detected at the airport this year. During security screening, a TSA officer detected the 9mm pistol with a chambered round, along with ten rounds in the passenger’s carry-on bag. A magazine loaded with 15 rounds of unknown caliber was also detected in the carry-on bag. Connecticut State Police responded and arrested the male passenger on state charges.

Meanwhile, TSA reports that its officers at El Paso International Airport have detected six handguns in travelers’ carry-on bags in 36 days. In a timeframe that spans from Feb. 19 to Mar. 26, 2021, TSA officers detected six handguns in the carry-on bags of six passengers. With the exception of one, all guns were loaded. 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 six firearm discoveries were linked.

Nationwide, TSA officers have discovered 1006 firearms so far this year and 86% of those have been loaded. In 2020, a total of 3,257 firearms were found in carry-on luggage at airports across the country.

(Visited 79 times, 5 visits today)

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.

Leave a Reply

Latest from Airport & Aviation Security

Go to Top
X