TSA officials at Harrisburg International Airport detected this loaded handgun on August 2. TSA photo.

Weekly Update: TSA Firearm Detections

Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officers continue to detect loaded firearms at airport checkpoints. 

On July 27, TSA officers stopped an Arizona woman from carrying a 9 mm handgun onto an airplane at Richmond International Airport. TSA officials immediately alerted the airport police, who responded to the checkpoint, confiscated the handgun and detained the woman for questioning before issuing her two summons with a court date as a result of the incident.

“Even though there have been many fewer passengers as a result of the pandemic, we continue to see them bringing handguns to the checkpoint,” said Chuck Burke, TSA’s Federal Security Director for Richmond International Airport. “Our TSA officers are very skilled at detecting firearms and other prohibited items. I strongly urge passengers to be certain they don’t have any prohibited or illegal items in their carry-on or checked bag before arriving at the airport. It’s always a good idea to start with an empty bag when packing to make sure that you haven’t accidentally left something inside that is not permitted past a checkpoint.”

Meanwhile, TSA officers stopped a Tennessee man with a .38 caliber handgun loaded with six bullets at one of the Philadelphia International Airport security checkpoints on July 29. After spotting the handgun in the checkpoint X-ray machine, TSA immediately alerted the Philadelphia Police, who responded to the checkpoint and confiscated the gun before issuing the man a citation. The man told officials that he forgot that he had his loaded gun with him.

“Our TSA team is focused on its security mission and they are highly skilled at detecting prohibited items brought to checkpoints—especially firearms,” said Gerardo Spero, TSA’s Federal Security Director for Philadelphia International Airport. “It is extremely disturbing to see so many firearms being brought to the airport at a time when the number of passengers who are flying is in the neighborhood of 75 to 80 percent fewer than last year. And to hear that someone forgot that he had his loaded gun with him is just plain careless. If you own a firearm, you should know where it is at all times.”

TSA detected its 46th firearm of 2020 at Nashville International Airport on July 31. A total of 97 were detected at the airport in the whole of 2019, illustrating that while passenger numbers may have fallen, those who do travel are not getting the message about traveling with firearms. They may only be transported in checked baggage (provided they are declared to the airline, in a proper carrying case and unloaded), and are prohibited in carry-on bags.

At approximately 11 a.m., at Nashville International Airport, a loaded Walther Interarms 9mm handgun was detected in a passenger’s carry-on bag. TSA immediately alerted airport police, who took possession of the bag and escorted the passenger out of the checkpoint area.

“Even with much lower than normal passenger numbers, we continue to find firearms at a very high rate at security checkpoints,” said Steve Wood, TSA Federal Security Director for Tennessee. “Passengers must remember they’re responsible for the contents of bags and our advice is they thoroughly inspect all personal belongings to make sure there are no illegal or prohibited items before coming to the airport.”

A pink and black .22 caliber handgun loaded with 10 bullets was caught by TSA officers at Harrisburg International Airport as a Pennsylvania woman passed through the checkpoint on August 2.

TSA officers detected the gun as the woman’s belongings entered the X-ray machine. They alerted the Susquehanna Area Regional Airport Authority Police, which came to the checkpoint and confiscated the handgun. Police cited the woman on weapons charges. 

Saturday also saw TSA officers stop a passenger traveling through Boston Logan International Airport from carrying a Ruger pistol onto an airplane. The male passenger was traveling with two children and had packed the firearm in one of their travel-on bags.

TSA officials immediately notified Massachusetts State Police, who responded to the checkpoint and confiscated the unloaded weapon.

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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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