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Tuesday, February 7, 2023

Recent TSA Firearm Detections Include Four Catches in Four Days at Chicago Airports

Transportation Security Administration officers at Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD) and Chicago Midway International Airport (MDW) stopped four handguns from making their way onto flights in separate incidents recently.

The incidents occurred:

  • Sunday, June 5 at an MDW checkpoint. The gun was loaded with a round chambered.
  • Tuesday, June 7 at an ORD checkpoint. The gun was unloaded.
  • Wednesday, June 8 at an ORD checkpoint. The gun was loaded with a round chambered.
  • Wednesday, June 8 at an MDW checkpoint. The gun was loaded.

In all incidents, passengers presented their carry-on bags for screening and Transportation Security Officers detected the firearms on the X-ray. TSA officers contacted Chicago Police Department for further action. Individuals may face criminal charges.

“With summer travel ramping up, our TSA Officers continue to do a fantastic job preventing firearms from entering the secure area of the airport,” Dereck Starks, TSA’s Federal Security Director for Illinois, said. “Let me be clear: Guns are never allowed in carry-on luggage. Bringing a firearm to the checkpoint can have serious consequences and endangers other passengers.”

Including these firearms, 36 guns have been stopped at ORD so far in 2022, and 18 have been detected at MDW. In 2021, TSA officers stopped a total of 91 guns at ORD security checkpoints and 42 at MDW.

Elsewhere, A Radnor, Pa., man was arrested by police after officials prevented him from carrying a loaded handgun through the TSA checkpoint and onto his flight on June 14, at Atlantic City International Airport.  The handgun was detected when the security officer who was staffing the checkpoint X-ray monitor spotted the .38 caliber handgun loaded with seven bullets, including one in the chamber inside the man’s carry-on bag. Security officials then alerted New Jersey State Police who confiscated the handgun and arrested the man. The man claimed that the carry-on bag and its contents, including the loaded gun, belonged to his father.

Meanwhile, TSA officers prevented a handgun from making its way onboard an airplane at Dayton International Airport (DAY) on June 16. 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 4:45 a.m., and TSA officials immediately alerted the Dayton Airport Police. The firearm was loaded, and the passenger said they had forgotten it was in the bag. This is the sixth firearm detected at DAY this year. Only four firearms were detected at DAY security checkpoints in all of 2021.

The same day, a Montana man was cited by police after TSA officers detected a loaded 9mm handgun among his carry-on items at a security checkpoint at Philadelphia International Airport. The gun was loaded with 13 bullets, including one in the chamber. An additional loaded gun magazine was also in the carry-on bag. When the TSA officers spotted the gun in the checkpoint X-ray machine, the Philadelphia Police were alerted, confiscated the gun and detained the man for questioning before citing him. TSA forwarded the incident to be followed up with the issuance of a federal financial civil penalty. It was the 16th gun that officers have caught at one of the airport checkpoints so far this year.

Also on June 16, a TSA officer at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) prevented a Stafford, Va., resident from bringing a loaded handgun onto her flight. It was the 10th gun detected by TSA officers at the airport so far this year. The 9mm gun was loaded with 13 bullets and was detected via the X-ray machine as the woman was entering the security checkpoint with her carry-on items. An additional loaded gun magazine was also in her possession. TSA officials notified the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority police who confiscated the gun and cited the woman on a weapons charge.

“Everyone who owns a firearm needs to know that they are not permitted to be carried through an airport security checkpoint,” said John Busch, TSA’s Federal Security Director for DCA. “Bringing a deadly weapon such as a loaded handgun to a security checkpoint is a very serious offense. Guns, ammunition and security checkpoints don’t mix. Travelers are responsible for and held accountable for the contents of their baggage. And every responsible gun owner must know where their firearm is at all times.  Too often TSA is told ‘I forgot it was in the bag,’ and that is also troubling.”

TSA issues civil penalties to travelers who bring guns to a checkpoint. A typical first offense for carrying a loaded handgun into a checkpoint is $4,100. The complete list of civil penalties is on the TSA website. If a traveler with a gun is a member of TSA PreCheck, that individual will lose their TSA PreCheck privileges for a period of time.

Passengers are permitted to travel with firearms in checked baggage if they are unloaded, packed separately from ammunition in a locked hardback case and declared at the airline check-in counter. Firearm possession laws vary by state and locality. Travelers should check for firearm laws in the jurisdictions they are flying to and from.

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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