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Thursday, June 13, 2024

Travelers Continue to Bring Loaded Firearms to Airport Checkpoints Despite Increased Penalties

TSA officers at Syracuse-Hancock International Airport stopped a Texas man with a loaded handgun at the security checkpoint on Saturday, April 8. The .40 caliber handgun was loaded with 11 bullets, including one in the chamber.

The spring travel season is in full swing and Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officers have stopped several guns at checkpoints around the country recently, most of which were loaded.

TSA officers at Syracuse-Hancock International Airport stopped a Texas man with a loaded handgun at the security checkpoint on Saturday, April 8. The .40 caliber handgun was loaded with 11 bullets, including one in the chamber. When the TSA officer spotted the gun in the checkpoint X-ray machine, airport police were alerted, came to the checkpoint and confiscated the weapon from the traveler. The man told officials that he drove to New York state from his home in Texas and forgot that he had his loaded gun with him when he arrived at the airport for his flight.

The following day, a man was arrested after TSA officers at Pittsburgh International Airport found a loaded gun in his carry-on bag. The 9 mm firearm was loaded with five bullets. When the TSA officer spotted the gun in the checkpoint X-ray machine, airport police were alerted, came to the checkpoint and confiscated the weapon and arrested the man, a resident of Beaver Falls, Pa.

On April 10, TSA officers at Washington Dulles International Airport prevented a King George, Va., man from bringing his handgun onto a flight. The 9mm gun was not loaded. The weapon was caught as the man entered the security checkpoint. The X-ray unit alerted on his carry-on bag. The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority Police were contacted, confiscated the gun and cited the man on a weapons charge. The man told officials that he forgot that he had his gun with him.

The same day, TSA officers at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport prevented a Spotsylvania, Va., woman from bringing her loaded handgun onto her flight. The .380 caliber gun was loaded with five bullets. The weapon was caught as the woman entered the security checkpoint. The X-ray unit alerted on her handbag, which was searched and the firearm discovered inside a zippered pouch inside the purse. The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority Police confiscated the gun and cited the woman on a weapons charge. The woman told officials she carries the gun for protection and forgot that she had her gun with her.

TSA officers at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport stopped another firearm, this time on Saturday, April 15. The .40 caliber gun was not loaded, however there were two loaded gun magazines with 19 bullets packed alongside the weapon. The firearm was caught as the man entered the security checkpoint. The X-ray unit alerted on a carry-on bag, which was searched and the firearm removed by a Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority Police officer, who confiscated the gun and cited the man on a weapons charge.

On April 11, TSA officers stopped a firearm from making its way onboard an airplane at Minot International Airport. During the routine screening of carry-on luggage, a TSA officer spotted the image of a handgun on the X-ray screen. TSA officials immediately alerted Minot Police, who responded to the checkpoint. The firearm was loaded. It was the third firearm detected at Minot International so far this year. Last year, a total of four firearms were detected at the airport’s security checkpoints.

A Florida man was arrested by police on April 12, after TSA officers at Philadelphia International Airport prevented the man from bringing his handgun onto a flight. The .380 caliber gun was loaded with seven bullets, including one in the chamber. The man’s backpack also contained six additional bullets that were tucked into his carry-on bag near the firearm. The gun was caught as the man entered the security checkpoint. The X-ray unit alerted on the carry-on bag, which was removed by the local police who confiscated the gun and arrested the man on weapons charges. The man told officials that he mistakenly left the gun in his backpack.

On April 13, TSA officers stopped a firearm from making its way onboard an airplane at Rapid City Regional Airport. During the routine screening of carry-on luggage, a TSA officer spotted the image of a handgun on the X-ray screen. TSA officials immediately alerted Rapid City Police, who responded to the checkpoint. The firearm was loaded. It was the third firearm detected at the airport so far this year. Last year, a total of seven firearms were detected at Rapid City Regional.

All of these individuals face a stiff federal financial civil penalty. Federal penalties for bringing weapons to the checkpoint can run as high as $15,000, depending on the circumstances.

Individuals who want to bring their guns with them when they fly need to pack them properly in their checked luggage, and declare them at their airline check-in counter to be transported in the belly of the plane where nobody has access to firearms during a flight.

TSA has details on how to properly travel with a firearm posted on its website. Travelers should also contact their airline as they may have additional requirements for traveling with firearms and ammunition.

Last year, 6,542 firearms were caught at 262 out of 430 airport security checkpoints nationwide. Eighty-eight percent of those guns were loaded. While it is too soon to see any annual trends emerging, some of the country’s largest international airports are so far seeing fewer firearms at the checkpoints than the last two years, however, some airports with traditionally less passenger traffic are seeing increases. It will be interesting to see whether this pattern remains once summer and holiday traffic is taken into account at the end of the year.

author avatar
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.
Kylie Bielby
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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