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Thursday, October 6, 2022
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TSA Firearm Detections – Week 42

Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officers at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) prevented a Fairfax Station, Virginia, man from bringing his .40 caliber handgun loaded with 13 bullets onto his flight on October 19.

“Guns and airports don’t mix,” said Scott T. Johnson, TSA Federal Security Director for the airport. “If you own a firearm, under no circumstances should you bring it to a security checkpoint. If you do so, your gun will be confiscated by the airport police and you will be subject to a heavy civil penalty from TSA that could cost you thousands of dollars.”

When the gun was spotted in the X-ray machine, the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority police were alerted. The police confiscated the gun and cited the man on a weapons charge. It was the 25th gun detected at DCA already this year, 15 more than the number detected in 2020 and 11 more than the 14 caught in 2019.

The same day, TSA officers at Richmond International Airport prevented a Richmond woman from carrying her .380 caliber handgun loaded with eight bullets onto her flight on Tuesday, October 19. The gun was detected in the X-ray machine among the traveler’s carry-on items at the security checkpoint. TSA alerted police, who responded to the checkpoint, confiscated the handgun and arrested the woman on a weapons charge. In addition to being arrested by the police, she also faces a stiff federal financial civil penalty for bringing a loaded gun to an airport security checkpoint. This was the fifteenth gun caught by TSA officers at the airport so far this year. In 2019, when there were more passengers, 14 firearms were detected at the checkpoint.

On October 20, TSA officers at Chicago O’Hare International Airport stopped two handguns from making their way onto flights in separate incidents. The incidents occurred around 6:30 a.m. and 10:45 a.m. In both cases, passengers presented their carry-on bags for screening and TSA officers detected the firearms on the X-ray. Both of the firearms were loaded. TSA officers contacted the Chicago Police Department for further action. Individuals may face arrest and criminal charges.

The following day, officers at Washington Dulles International Airport stopped a Warren County, Virginia, man from bringing his 9mm handgun onto his flight. The firearm was not loaded. TSA alerted the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority police who confiscated the gun and arrested the man, a resident of Bentonville, Virginia, on state charges. He also faces a stiff federal financial penalty for carrying a gun to a TSA checkpoint. This was the 17th gun caught at the checkpoints so far this year, two shy of the previous record.

Airports across the country continue to see a high rate of firearms brought to the checkpoint. TSA reported on October 15 that officers at George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) have already discovered 167 firearms at security checkpoints this year. In 2020, TSA officers discovered 120 firearms at security checkpoints and in 2019 they found 138 firearms.

 “The implementation of new gun laws in the state may have a significant increase in the number of firearms brought to Texas security checkpoints,” said IAH Federal Security Director Juan Sanchez. “Passengers must remember they’re responsible for the contents of bags and our advice is they thoroughly inspect all personal belongings to make sure there are no illegal or prohibited items before coming to the airport.”

Nationwide, TSA officers detected 3,257 firearms on passengers or their carry-on bags at checkpoints last year, although the total number of passengers screened at airport checkpoints across the country fell by 500 million compared to 2019, due to the pandemic. The result was that twice as many firearms per million passengers screened were detected at checkpoints in 2020 compared to 2019. In 2020, TSA caught approximately 10 firearms per million passengers as compared to about five firearms per million passengers in 2019. 

Find out the correct way to travel with firearms at TSA

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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