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TSA Firearm Detections Include Loaded Gun Found in Wheelchair

Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officers prevented a Connecticut man from carrying a .38 caliber handgun onto his flight at LaGuardia Airport on January 10. The gun was not loaded. A TSA officer spotted the handgun on the checkpoint X-ray machine’s monitor. TSA immediately alerted the Port Authority Police, which responded to the checkpoint, and detained the man for questioning before arresting him on a weapons charge. In addition to being arrested, he also faces a stiff federal civil penalty for bringing a gun to an airport security checkpoint. The man, a resident of Darien, Conn., told officials that he did not realize that he had his gun with him.

On January 13, a TSA officer at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport prevented a Fredericksburg, Va., man from bringing a loaded handgun onto his flight. The man was in possession of a 9 mm gun loaded with 12 bullets, including one in the chamber. TSA officials notified the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority police who confiscated the gun and ammunition and cited the man on a weapons charge.

“It’s early in the year and already this is the second time that the TSA team at Reagan National Airport has stopped a traveler with a handgun at one of our checkpoints,” said Scott T. Johnson, TSA’s Federal Security Director for the airport. “There is no good excuse for bringing a gun to a security checkpoint. If you own a firearm, you need to be aware of the laws regarding where you can and cannot bring it. It’s simply part of being a responsible gun owner.”

The following day, a TSA officer at Pittsburgh International Airport prevented a Westmoreland County, Pa., woman from bringing a loaded handgun onto her flight. The woman, a resident of Ligonier, Pa., was in possession of a loaded .380 caliber handgun that was packed in her knapsack. She told officials that she forgot that she had her loaded gun with her. When the TSA officer spotted the gun in the checkpoint X-ray machine, the Allegheny County Police were alerted and confiscated the weapon. TSA forwarded the incident to be followed up with the issuance of a federal financial civil penalty.

TSA frontline employees know that they have to expect the unexpected. And that was the case when Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport TSA officer Adam Davidson made a great catch.

It’s one thing to find a firearm on a passenger, something that’s happening more frequently than ever at airport security checkpoints across the country. But discovering a loaded gun in a wheelchair? That’s not something that happens every day.  The passenger, unable to stand, was led through a special gate for people with disabilities. While patting down the passenger’s legs, Davidson felt something attached to the wheelchair. There was a black bag hanging from the wheelchair with a loaded firearm inside. Davidson remained calm, remembered his training, and notified the supervisor on duty. While waiting on law enforcement, Davidson continued to engage the passenger respectfully in conversation, which helped keep him at ease. Once law enforcement confiscated the firearm, the traveler was cited and released. Davidson completed the pat-down, cleared the wheelchair and the passenger was allowed to proceed on with his flight. 

“I am truly pleased and proud to work alongside such wonderful TSA employees,” said Federal Security Director Steve Lorincz. “We are so fortunate to have Officer Davidson working on the frontline amongst our officers. His attention to detail and continued focus on threat detection makes him an extremely valued member and officer of our team here in Detroit. Davidson exemplifies the values of a great officer and is always willing to assist his team and individually when it is needed.”

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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