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Thursday, February 2, 2023

Stolen Gun Among Those Stopped at TSA Checkpoints During the Busy Travel Period

Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officers are not resting during the holiday travel season. A loaded .357 Magnum was detected at Boston Logan International Airport on November 24 and the Boston TSA team stopped another traveler from bringing a loaded gun into the cabin of an aircraft on November 26. TSA officers have now detected 17 firearms at Boston Logan security checkpoints this year. In 2019, TSA officers caught 18 firearms. In 2020, TSA stopped 11 firearms at the checkpoints.

TSA officers around the country stayed alert as many travelers returned home after the Thanksgiving weekend. TSA officers even helped get a dangerous man off the streets after he was prevented from carrying a loaded and stolen handgun onto his flight on November 29, at Newark Liberty International Airport. The gun and boxes of ammunition were packed inside a carry-on bag and a TSA officer who was staffing the checkpoint X-ray monitor spotted the weapon. TSA then alerted Port Authority Police to come take possession of and inspect the contents of the bag.

When the traveler realized that one of his carry-on bags had triggered an alarm and was going to be opened and inspected, he departed the checkpoint with his other carry-on items, and left the bag that triggered the alarm behind. He then headed to his gate. Police arrived and confiscated the gun and ammunition.

A TSA supervisor and lead officer saw that the traveler left the checkpoint without the bag that triggered the alarm so they followed him and kept a constant visual on him until police arrived at the gate. The TSA officers followed the man closely to ensure that he did not make contact with another passenger and to ensure that any items he did bring to the gate were not handed off or left somewhere in the sterile area of the terminal.

Police returned the man to the checkpoint, where he was ultimately arrested. Officials ran a check on the individual and the firearm and learned that the gun had been reported as stolen in Georgia.  

“This individual knew he had a loaded gun with him and realized that he would be questioned by police, so he tried to distance himself from the carry-on bag and its contents by walking away,” said Thomas Carter, TSA’s Federal Security Director for New Jersey. “It turns out that the man has an extensive criminal record and the gun was reported as having been stolen. This was a very good catch on the part of our TSA officers. Not only did TSA prevent a deadly weapon from getting on board an aircraft, but we aided law enforcement in getting a dangerous individual off of the street.”

Also on the 29th, a man was stopped by TSA officers at Huntington Tri-State Airport when they detected a loaded 9mm handgun along with two gun magazines with a total of 35 bullets among his carry-on items.  When the TSA officer spotted the gun in the checkpoint X-ray machine, local police were alerted, came to the checkpoint, and confiscated the weapon. The man told officials that he forgot that he had his loaded gun with him.

The following day, TSA officers at Norfolk International Airport caught a Virginia Beach, Va., resident with a .380 caliber handgun loaded with six bullets at the airport security checkpoint. When the TSA officers detected the weapon, the Norfolk Airport Authority Police were alerted and confiscated the weapon and cited the man. The case was forwarded to the Norfolk Commonwealth’s Attorney for possible criminal prosecution. The man also faces a stiff federal financial civil penalty. This was the 22nd gun stopped at the airport’s checkpoints so far this year. A total of 12 were caught last year and 15 in 2019.

A Texas resident was arrested by police after TSA officers at Lehigh Valley International Airport prevented him from bringing his handgun onto his flight on December 1. The 9mm gun was not loaded, however it was accompanied by a gun magazine that was loaded with 15 bullets. TSA officers spotted the handgun in the man’s carry-on bag. When the TSA officer spotted the gun on the checkpoint X-ray monitor, the police were alerted and confiscated the gun. It was the seventh gun detected by TSA at the airport this year, a significant increase over the three firearms caught at the checkpoint last year and just one in 2019.

On December 2, TSA stopped a passenger from carrying his loaded 9mm handgun onto his flight at Yeager Airport.  The gun was loaded with 12 bullets. Once TSA officers discovered the handgun, they immediately notified the police, who responded to the checkpoint. The man, a resident of Arizona, was cited by the police. He also faces a federal civil penalty for bringing a gun to an airport security checkpoint.

“Passengers are allowed to travel with their firearms and ammunition as long as they follow the proper procedures,” said John C. Allen, TSA’s Federal Security Director for West Virginia. “Travelers should never bring a gun—loaded or unloaded—to a security checkpoint because they are not permitted to be carried into the cabin of a plane.”

Thanksgiving may be over for another year but with Christmas just around the corner, traveler numbers will pick up again soon, even with the Omicron variant threatening to scupper festive plans. TSA officers will again be vigilant at checkpoints and urge travelers to check their bags before they arrive at the airport.

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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