TSA officers at Huntington Tri-State Airport stopped a woman with this loaded handgun at the security checkpoint on June 10. (TSA photo)

Weekly Update: TSA Firearm Detections

Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officers detected and prevented a handgun from making its way into the passenger cabin of an airplane at the Detroit Metropolitan Airport on June 7. TSA officers detected a loaded 9mm handgun in the carry-on bags of a male traveler and immediately alerted the Wayne County Airport Police. Officers responded to the checkpoint, and removed the traveler and confiscated the weapon.

On June 10, a Scioto County, Ohio, woman was stopped by TSA officers at Huntington Tri-State Airport when they detected a loaded .380 caliber handgun loaded with six bullets in her carry-on bag. When the TSA officer spotted the gun in the checkpoint X-ray machine, local police were alerted, came to the checkpoint, and confiscated the weapon. 

“It’s important to know where your gun is when you pack for a flight. And where that is must not be in your carry-on bag,” said John C. Allen, TSA’s Federal Security Director for West Virginia. “Our TSA officers remain vigilant in their duties even as the end of the pandemic nears. We are still doing what we can to reduce touch-points to help prevent any cross-contamination, but when someone has a prohibited item in their carry-on bag, it means that our TSA officers are going to have to open that bag and go inside to remove it, thus creating additional touch-points. Take extra care not to have anything prohibited in your carry-on bag before you leave your house to come to the airport.”

Also on June 10, TSA officers at Hollywood Burbank Airport discovered a loaded firearm during the routine screening of carry-on property at the airport security checkpoint. Upon seeing the image of the firearm on the X-ray screen, TSA immediately notified the Hollywood Burbank Airport Police, who responded to the security checkpoint. Law enforcement found a loaded Butler 22 Short Derringer Pistol with a single round chambered in the bag of a traveler ticketed for travel to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. The individual was cited on a local charge, the weapon was confiscated and the traveler was permitted to continue on his flight.

Meanwhile, two men were arrested by police after TSA officers caught them with guns at security checkpoints within a week of each other at Newark-Liberty International Airport. A TSA officer stopped a Ridgefield Park, New Jersey, man with a gun tucked into his backpack on Friday, June 11 in Terminal C. The gun was packed inside of two soft-sided zippered cases within a backpack and initially appeared to be a large belt buckle with a replica gun on it, but upon closer inspection it turned out to be an actual real firearm that could pop out of its decorative metallic oval frame. The man told officials that he forgot that he had his gun with him.

Prior to this, on June 3, TSA officers at the airport caught an Easton, Pennsylvania, man with a handgun in his carry-on bag at one of the checkpoints in Terminal A. He also told officials that he forgot that he was carrying a gun with him.

In each instance, TSA officers spotted the handguns inside carry-on bags as they entered a checkpoint X-ray unit. Port Authority Police were alerted, confiscated the weapons and arrested the men on weapons charges.

In addition to potential criminal citations, travelers face civil penalties for bringing firearms to the security checkpoint and TSA evaluates each firearm incident on a case-by-case basis. Among the factors TSA considers when determining the civil penalty amount are whether the firearm was loaded and whether there was accessible ammunition. Even if a traveler has a concealed weapons permit, firearms are not permitted in carry-on luggage.

In addition to civil penalties, individuals who violate rules regarding traveling with firearms will have Trusted Traveler status and TSA PreCheck expedited screening benefits revoked for a period of time. The duration of the disqualification will depend upon the seriousness of the offense and if there is a repeated history of violations.

Firearms can be transported on a commercial aircraft only if they are unloaded, packed in a locked, hard-sided case and placed in checked baggage. Any type of replica firearm is prohibited in carry-on baggage and must be transported in checked luggage.

At the airport during the check-in process, a passenger needs to go to the airline ticket counter to declare the firearm, ammunition and any firearm parts. Prior to traveling, passengers are encouraged to check gun laws and regulations at their destination to ensure they are in compliance with local and state laws. TSA also recommends travelers check with their airline prior to their flight to ensure they comply with any airline-specific requirements.

Read guidance on the transportation of firearms and ammunition at TSA

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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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