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Thursday, October 21, 2021
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Weekly Update: TSA Firearm Detections Week 37

The number of guns stopped at Pittsburgh International Airport this year has already surpassed the number detected in 2020.

Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officers prevented a handgun from making its way onboard an airplane at Milwaukee Mitchell International Airport on September 13. During the routine screening of carry-on luggage, a TSA officer spotted the image of a handgun on the X-ray screen. The incident occurred around 11:20 a.m., and TSA officials immediately alerted the Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Office. A deputy responded to the checkpoint, confiscated the firearm, which was loaded, and issued a citation.

“It’s extremely disappointing that passengers continue to bring firearms to the airport checkpoint,” Wisconsin TSA Federal Security Director Mark Lendvay said. “Even when it’s done unintentionally, this is unsafe and can seriously slow or shut down security screening until the police resolve the incident.”

TSA officers at Boston Logan International Airport have stopped another firearm at the security checkpoint. On the evening of September 14, a TSA officer detected a loaded .380 firearm along with a magazine containing three 9mm rounds in a man’s carry-on bag at a security checkpoint. TSA officers immediately notified Massachusetts State Police who questioned and eventually arrested the Delaware resident. This was the 13th firearm detection this year by TSA officers at Boston Logan security checkpoints. In 2020 TSA discovered a total of 11 firearms at the airport’s security checkpoints and 18 in 2019.

“Two times in less than a week our officers have prevented loaded guns from being carried onto flights by individuals,” said Bob Allison, TSA’s Federal Security Director for Massachusetts. “Saying that you didn’t know the firearm was in your bag is no excuse. Responsible gun owners know where their firearms are at all times and don’t make these sorts of careless mistakes. Passengers who are traveling with firearms need to ensure they are properly packed in their checked baggage.”

Meanwhile, the number of guns stopped at Pittsburgh International Airport this year has already surpassed the number detected in 2020. TSA officers stopped a Butler, Pennsylvania, resident from bringing his 9mm handgun onto a flight at the airport on September 14, marking the 22nd gun caught at the checkpoint this year. 21 guns were detected at the Pittsburgh International checkpoint last year. When TSA officers spotted the gun in the checkpoint X-ray machine, they alerted Allegheny County Police who then confiscated the unloaded weapon and temporarily detained the man for questioning.

The following day, TSA officers at Richmond International Airport prevented a Mechanicsville, Virginia, man from carrying a 9mm handgun loaded with 15 bullets onto his flight. The gun was detected in the X-ray machine among the traveler’s carry-on items at the security checkpoint. TSA alerted police, who responded to the checkpoint, confiscated the handgun and issued the man a citation. In addition to being cited by the police, he also faces a stiff federal financial civil penalty for bringing a loaded gun to an airport security checkpoint.

TSA officers at Redding Municipal Airport discovered two loaded firearms on September 16 during the routine X-ray screening of carry-on luggage at the security checkpoint. The first firearm find occurred at 7 a.m. when a TSA officer saw the image of a firearm on the X-ray screen. The firearm, .40 caliber Smith & Wesson MP40 handgun was loaded with six rounds of ammunition, was discovered in the carry-on of a male passenger ticketed for travel to Los Angeles International Airport.

The second firearm discovery occurred around 2 p.m. when a loaded .38 caliber Charter Arms gun loaded with five rounds of ammunition was detected in the carry-on of a female traveler headed to Hollywood Burbank Airport.

In both cases, screening was stopped and TSA notified airport law enforcement, which responded to the security checkpoint. There is no evidence these two incidents were linked. Both travelers were interviewed by law enforcement and allowed to continue on their travels. These are the second and third firearm discoveries by TSA officers at the airport so far this year after a loaded firearm was stopped by TSA on August 18, 2021. One firearm was stopped at the airport in 2019, and none were found in 2018 or 2020, making 2021 an unprecedented year for firearm detections at Redding.

TSA officers have prevented two handguns from being carried onboard an airplane at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport (CLE) in the past five days. In the first incident on September 16, at around 6 p.m., TSA officials detected a firearm inside a passenger’s carry-on bag during the routine X-ray screening. When Cleveland Police were notified, the officer seized the weapon, a 9mm Glock loaded with nine rounds in the magazine. The passenger, who has a concealed carry permit, said she was switching purses and forgot the firearm was in her bag.

On September 20, another firearm was caught at the airport’s checkpoint. At approximately 5:50 a.m., a TSA PreCheck® passenger presented himself for screening, and a TSA officer identified a firearm in the passenger’s carry-on bag. Cleveland Police again responded to the checkpoint and confiscated the firearm. The firearm, a Cobra CB 38, was unloaded and had an external safety that was engaged. The passenger also has a concealed carry permit and said he forgot the gun was in his bag.

On September 19, TSA officers prevented a Texas man from boarding his flight with a .44 caliber handgun loaded with five bullets, at the Syracuse Hancock International Airport security checkpoint. A TSA officer spotted the handgun on the checkpoint X-ray machine’s monitor as the man’s belongings were being screened. A revolver was found in his carry-on bag. TSA immediately alerted the Syracuse Police, which responded to the checkpoint, confiscated the weapon, cited the man and issued a summons for him to appear in court at a future date. The man told officials that he flew his private plane to New York with the gun, but was having trouble with the aircraft so he booked a commercial flight back to his home in Texas.

“This was a great catch on the part of our officers on a busy Sunday at the airport when they prevented a loaded firearm from getting onto the plane,” said Bart R. Johnson, TSA Federal Security Director for Upstate New York. “It is unfortunate that this individual did not even know that he had a loaded firearm with him. His actions were irresponsible and he caused a significant disruption at the checkpoint.”

Read guidance about the correct way to travel with a firearm at TSA

Kylie Bielby
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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