Despite increased penalties, Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officers are continuing to see a large number of firearms at checkpoints, most of which are loaded.
On August 3, TSA officers prevented a male passenger from carrying a loaded firearm onto an airplane at Tweed New Haven Airport. During routine screening, the firearm was detected in the passenger’s carry-on bag. TSA immediately notified the New Haven Police who quickly responded and discovered a loaded 9mm with a round chambered in the 46-year-old passenger’s backpack. During the interview, the South Carolina resident stated he was in a rush and forgot to put the firearm in his checked luggage. The passenger ended up missing his flight.
This was the eighth firearm detected in Connecticut in 2023. TSA officers have detected a total of 35 firearms at New England security checkpoints this year. In the whole of 2022 there was a record 47 firearm detections at New England security checkpoints.
Also on August 3, an Ontario County, N.Y., man was stopped by TSA officers at Frederick Douglass Greater Rochester International Airport when they detected a handgun in his carry-on bag. The .380 caliber gun was loaded with six bullets. The gun was caught as the man entered the security checkpoint. An alert security officer was operating the X-ray unit at the checkpoint when they detected what appeared to be a firearm. A Monroe County Sheriff’s deputy was notified and responded. Upon arrival, they opened the bag for a closer inspection and a loaded firearm was discovered. The traveler told officials that he forgot that he had his loaded gun with him. The traveler had a valid New York State pistol permit and the weapon was confiscated by the Monroe County Sheriff’s Department.
TSA officers also prevented a handgun from making its way onboard an airplane at Milwaukee Mitchell International Airport on August 4. 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 3:30 a.m., and TSA officials immediately alerted the Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Office. A deputy responded to the checkpoint and issued a citation.
“Summer travel season has been busy, and bringing prohibited or illegal items to our security checkpoints slows down the screening process for everyone until the incident is resolved,” Wisconsin TSA Federal Security Director Mark Lendvay said. “If traveling with a firearm, pack it in a locked, hard-sided case and check the bag. Guns are never allowed in carry-on luggage.”
This was the 13th firearm detected at Milwaukee Mitchell this year. A total of 21 firearms were detected at the airport’s security checkpoints last year.
The same day, TSA officers at Norfolk International Airport prevented an Arizona resident from bringing his loaded handgun onto a flight on Friday. The 9mm gun was loaded with 10 bullets. The gun was caught as the man entered the security checkpoint. The X-ray unit alerted on the carry-on bag, which required a closer inspection. The firearm was removed by the local police, who cited the man on a weapons charge. The man also faces a stiff financial civil penalty for bringing a gun to a TSA security checkpoint. The penalty for carrying weapons can reach as high as $15,000, depending on the circumstances. The case will also be forwarded to the Norfolk Commonwealth’s Attorney for possible criminal prosecution.
“In this instance it appears that the traveler missed some crucial steps,” said Robin “Chuck” Burke, TSA’s Federal Security Director for the airport. “He had his firearm in a hard-sided case, but the gun needed to be unloaded and the case locked. Then he needed to take it to the airline check-in counter to be transported in the belly of the plane, and not brought to the checkpoint. We mandate that travelers declare their firearms with the airline to be transported with checked baggage to ensure that there are no guns in the cabin of planes.”
Less than a week later, Norfolk International Airport TSA officers prevented another firearm from making its way onto a flight on August 9. The .380 caliber gun was packed in a carry-on bag next to two gun magazines loaded with 12 bullets. The gun was caught as the local woman entered the security checkpoint. The X-ray unit alerted on the carry-on bag, which required a closer inspection. The firearm was removed by the local police, who cited the woman on a weapons charge. She also faces a stiff financial civil penalty for bringing a gun to a TSA security checkpoint. The penalty for carrying weapons can reach as high as $15,000, depending on the circumstances. As with the previous catch, this case will be forwarded to the Norfolk Commonwealth’s Attorney for possible criminal prosecution.
This was the 25th firearm that TSA has stopped at the checkpoint this year. In 2022, 27 guns were detected in total. “The frequency of the number of travelers that we see bringing their guns to our security checkpoints is alarming,” said Burke.
And on August 7, a Butler County, Pa., man was prevented from bringing his loaded handgun onto his flight at Pittsburgh International Airport after TSA officers detected a handgun in the man’s carry-on bag. The 9 mm handgun was loaded and was packed alongside two loaded gun magazines. When the TSA officer spotted the handgun in the checkpoint X-ray machine, airport police were alerted, came to the checkpoint and confiscated the weapon. The man now faces a stiff federal financial civil penalty. It was the 23rd firearm stopped by TSA at Pittsburgh International in 2023. Last year, officers caught 26 firearm’s at the airport’s checkpoints.
“Our officers are doing a tremendous job staying vigilant while screening travelers during this peak summer travel period,” said Karen Keys-Turner, TSA’s Federal Security Director for the airport. “This was the 23rd gun we have stopped here at Pittsburgh so far this year. Nationwide our TSA officers have prevented more than 3,000 guns from being carried onto flights.”
Keys-Turner urges travelers to take a few moments before they come to the airport to refresh their familiarity with the proper procedures on how to pack a gun for a flight. “Firearms should never be brought to the security checkpoint in carry-on luggage. Responsible gun owners know this,” she said.
Unsure if an item should be packed in a carry-on bag, checked bag, either or neither? Download the free myTSA app, which has a handy “What can I bring?” feature that allows you to type in the item to find out if it can fly. Or AskTSA. Travelers may also send a question by texting “Travel” to AskTSA (275-872).
As a reminder, passengers are permitted to travel with firearms only in checked baggage if they are unloaded and packed in a hard-sided locked case. Then the locked case should be taken to the airline check-in counter to be declared. TSA has details on how to properly travel with a firearm posted on its website.
Firearms are not permitted through a security checkpoint because passengers should not have access to a firearm during a flight. This even applies to travelers with concealed carry permits or are enrolled in the TSA PreCheck® program, who will lose their TSA PreCheck privileges if they bring a gun to a checkpoint. Individuals who bring their gun to a security checkpoint also face a federal financial civil penalty.
Last year, a record 6,542 firearms were caught at 262 out of 430 airport security checkpoints nationwide. Eighty-eight percent were loaded.