TSA officers caught this gun at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. (TSA)

Weekly Update: TSA Firearm Detections

Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officers working at airports in Oregon have recently seen an increase in the number of firearms brought by travelers in their carry-on luggage. In March 2021 alone, TSA officers in Oregon discovered eight firearms, most of which were loaded, in carry-on luggage. Each of the firearms was discovered during the routine screening of carry-on property at airport security checkpoints.

Elsewhere in the past week, TSA officers at Pittsburgh International Airport caught a Butler County, Pennsylvania, woman with a .380 caliber handgun loaded with six bullets at the security checkpoint on April 12. When the TSA officer spotted the gun in the checkpoint X-ray machine, the Allegheny County Police were alerted, came to the checkpoint, questioned the woman and confiscated the gun. The woman, a resident of Sarver, Pennsylvania, had the gun in her purse. She now faces a federal financial civil penalty for bringing a gun to the checkpoint.

“It is mid-way through the fourth month of the year and already we have caught more than half the number of guns we caught during all 12 months of 2020,” said Karen Keys-Turner, TSA’s Federal Security Director for the airport. “Let me say it very simply. Do not bring your gun to an airport security checkpoint. Even if you have a concealed carry permit, you are not permitted to carry it onto an airplane. If you want to travel with it, you must pack it properly so that it can be transported as checked baggage. If you do bring your gun to our checkpoint, you will face a stiff federal civil penalty that could cost you thousands of dollars.”

On April 16, TSA officers caught a Colonial Heights, Virginia, resident with a 9mm handgun loaded with six bullets including one in the chamber in the woman’s carry-on items at a Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport security checkpoint. A TSA officer spotted the handgun on the checkpoint X-ray machine’s monitor as the woman’s carry-on items were being screened. TSA officials alerted the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority Police, who responded to the checkpoint, confiscated the handgun and cited the woman. She now faces a stiff federal financial civil penalty for bringing a loaded gun to an airport security checkpoint.

TSA officers at Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport caught a Baltimore County man with a 9mm handgun loaded with 10 bullets at the checkpoint on April 18. 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, a resident of Cockeysville, Maryland, for questioning before citing him on weapons charges. The man told officials that he forgot that he had his loaded gun with him. He now faces a stiff federal financial penalty.

The same day, TSA officers at Richmond International Airport caught a Southampton County, Virginia, man with a .45 caliber handgun loaded with six bullets among his carry-on items at the security checkpoint. TSA alerted airport police, who responded to the checkpoint, confiscated the handgun and arrested the man, a resident of Capron, Virginia, on a weapons charge. The man told officials that it was his wife’s gun and that he didn’t know that he had her gun with him. In addition to his arrest, he now faces a stiff federal financial civil penalty. This was the fourth gun detected at Richmond International this year. In 2020, TSA officers caught 22 firearms at the airport’s checkpoints, which was a marked increase on the 2019 figure of 14, despite far fewer passengers.

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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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