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Thursday, March 23, 2023

Concealed Firearm Among TSA Catches During Busy Labor Day Holiday

During the Labor Day holiday, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screened 8.76 million travelers between Friday, Sept. 2 and Monday, Sept. 5. The weekend travel volume represents 102% of volume for the same pre-pandemic holiday weekend in 2019 and is the first time that a holiday weekend passenger screening volume exceeded that of 2019.

In 2019, Labor Day was on Monday, Sept. 2, and TSA screened 8.62 million passengers. The Labor Day weekend represents the conclusion of the summer travel season. This year, Friday marked the heaviest travel day when TSA officers screened 2.48 million passengers.

Over the course of the long weekend, 94.9% of TSA PreCheck® passengers waited less than five minutes. About 91.6% of those passengers in standard screening lanes waited less than 15 minutes.

During the weekend, TSA officers intercepted 67 firearms and prevented them from entering aircraft passenger cabins. These included a concealed, loaded revolver found by TSA officers at Newark Liberty International Airport on September 3. The .38 caliber revolver loaded with five bullets was detected when the TSA officer who was staffing a checkpoint X-ray monitor in Terminal B spotted the weapon inside the woman’s carry-on bag. When the bag was searched, the gun was found to be artfully concealed behind the lining of her bag. TSA officials alerted Port Authority Police who confiscated the handgun and arrested the woman, a resident of Orange, N.J., on weapons charges. The woman claimed that she did now know whose gun was in her bag.

“Travelers should not attempt to conceal weapons among their carry-on items when entering a TSA security checkpoint,” said Thomas Carter, TSA’s Federal Security Director for New Jersey. “This is a fine example of how we use the technology available to us to help ensure that guns are stopped before someone tries to carry one onto their flight. In addition to her arrest, this woman also faces a stiff federal financial civil penalty.”

The same day, TSA officers at Norfolk International Airport stopped a man from carrying a loaded handgun onto his flight. His carry-on bag triggered an alarm in the security checkpoint X-ray unit, and upon spotting the gun, TSA alerted the Norfolk Airport Authority Police, who responded to the checkpoint, confiscated the handgun, and cited the man on a weapons violation. The .380 caliber handgun was loaded with 20 bullets, including one in the chamber. The case will be forwarded to the Norfolk Commonwealth’s Attorney for possible criminal prosecution.

Also on September 3, TSA officers stopped a passenger from carrying a loaded firearm onto an airplane on Saturday at Bangor International Airport. During afternoon security screening, TSA officers detected a firearm in a 71-year-old female’s carry-on bag. Bangor police responded and discovered the .380 caliber firearm was a loaded with a chambered round. Bangor police let a friend of the passenger later retrieve the firearm and she was allowed to continue to Florida.

On average, TSA stopped 17.3 firearms each day at checkpoints since the beginning of the year. If this pace continues, TSA anticipates that firearm catches at checkpoints will eclipse the current full year-record of 5,972 firearms intercepted at the nation’s checkpoints in 2021.

“TSA’s highly trained and dedicated workforce facilitated secure travel for millions of passengers during the busy summer travel season with very little disruptions at the checkpoint,” said TSA Acting Administrator David Pekoske. “We were also able to continue the deployment of new technologies that facilitate stronger identity verification procedures and enhanced security screening for carry-on bags.”

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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