TSA officers detected this loaded handgun at one of the checkpoints at Washington Dulles International Airport on September 10. (TSA)

Weekly Update: TSA Firearm Detections

Over the past several weeks, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has experienced a steady growth of travelers coming to airport checkpoints and an escalating number of passengers forgetting to leave their guns and other prohibited items at home.

TSA officers at Orlando International Airport (MCO) have stopped five loaded guns in a week. Year-to-date, 50 guns have been intercepted by the TSA at MCO. The trend continues across the state with  these year-to-date totals: 46 at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood, 42 at Tampa International and 34 at Miami International. 

 “Bringing a gun or other prohibited items to the checkpoint will slow your security process and could be a very expensive mistake,” said TSA’s Deputy Federal Security Director Greg Hawko at MCO. “Make it a priority to check your bags before heading to the airport.”

At Pittsburgh International Airport, TSA officers caught a West Virginia man with a 9 mm handgun loaded with seven bullets in his backpack on September 8, making it the third gun caught in a week at the airport. A TSA officer spotted the handgun on the checkpoint X-ray machine’s monitor. TSA immediately alerted the Allegheny County Police, which responded to the checkpoint, and questioned the man, a resident of Buckhannon, West Virginia, in Upshur County. Police confiscated the gun and cited the man on weapons charges. In addition, the man is facing stiff federal civil penalties.

The same day, a North Carolina man was stopped by the TSA with a .380 caliber handgun loaded with six bullets at the Eppley Airfield checkpoint. The gun was accompanied by a magazine with six additional bullets. TSA officers caught the handgun as it entered the checkpoint X-ray machine. Omaha Airport Authority Police were contacted, confiscated the gun and briefly detained the man for questioning before allowing him to catch his flight. TSA officers at Eppley Airfield have caught eight firearms at checkpoints so far this year.

On September 9, a TSA officer at Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport caught a Baltimore County, Maryland, man with a .38 caliber handgun loaded with five bullets at the checkpoint. The 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 Owings Mills, Maryland, for questioning before arresting him on weapons charges. The man told officials that he forgot that he had his loaded gun with him.

A TSA officer at the same airport caught a Prince George’s County, Maryland, man with a .45 caliber handgun loaded with seven bullets at the checkpoint on September 11. The officer spotted a 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 Oxon Hill, Maryland, for questioning before arresting him on weapons charges. As was the case two days prior, the man told officials that he forgot that he had his loaded gun with him.

On September 10, a TSA officer at Washington Dulles International Airport stopped a Florida man from bringing a .380 caliber handgun loaded with seven bullets onto an airplane. The handgun was spotted when it appeared on the checkpoint X-ray monitor. TSA officials immediately contacted the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) Police, who confiscated the handgun and briefly detained the man for questioning before citing him on a weapons charge.

TSA officers at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport detected two firearms on September 12 during the routine X-ray screening of carry-on luggage at the security checkpoint. The first firearm discovery occurred around 8 a.m. when TSA officers found a Smith & Wesson Merkel compact handgun loaded with seven rounds of ammunition in the carry-on bag of a traveler ticketed for travel to Mitchell International Airport in Milwaukee. Around 5 p.m., a 10 mm Glock 29 pistol loaded with 10 rounds of ammunition was discovered in the carry-on bag of a traveler headed to Page Municipal Airport in Page, Arizona. Upon discovery of each firearm, TSA notified the Phoenix Police Department, which responded to the security checkpoint. The travelers were interviewed, the weapons were given to non-travelers and both individuals were permitted to continue to their flights. There is no indication the two incidents are linked. 

Also on September 12, a TSA officer detected a .22 caliber handgun loaded with nine bullets, including one in the chamber, at one of the security checkpoints at Philadelphia International Airport. The gun was spotted via the checkpoint X-ray machine. TSA contacted the Philadelphia Police, who arrived at the checkpoint and confiscated the gun along with a magazine loaded with eight bullets and a single loose bullet. Police cited the woman, a resident of Albion, New York, in Orleans County.

The same day, a TSA officer stopped a man from carrying a 9 mm handgun and loaded magazine onto an airplane at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport. TSA alerted the Cleveland Police Department and a deputy responded to the checkpoint and confiscated the weapon.

And another gun was detected on September 12, this time at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. The 9 mm handgun was loaded with 10 bullets including one in the chamber in a carry-on bag of a local woman. The gun was spotted by a TSA officer in the checkpoint X-ray machine. TSA contacted the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority Police, who arrived at the checkpoint and confiscated the gun from the woman, a resident of Alexandria, Virginia.

“This gun was caught by our TSA officers just one day after the nation observed the 19th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on our homeland,” said Scott T. Johnson, TSA’s Federal Security Director for the airport. “The anniversary was marked by extensive media coverage and the date itself is seared into the minds of Americans. Yet one day later this traveler did not realize that she was not allowed to bring her loaded gun onto her flight. The fact that guns are not allowed to be carried onto aircraft is a law that has been in place decades before TSA existed,” he said. “This individual now faces stiff federal financial civil penalties for her mistake.”

Read the TSA’s guidelines for 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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