Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officers at Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport caught a traveler with a loaded handgun at one of the checkpoints on Monday, Oct. 9, bringing the total number caught so far this year to a record-setting 36 guns.
The previous record of 35 guns caught in a year was set in 2022.
“It’s shocking to see that we have already surpassed the previous high number of guns caught and we are still in early October,” said Grant Goodlett, TSA’s Deputy Federal Security Director for Maryland. “Our TSA team here in Baltimore is good at what they do and they are remaining vigilant in helping to ensure that no illegal or prohibited items are carried onto a flight. There is absolutely no excuse for bringing a gun to our checkpoints because you certainly can’t carry it onto your flight.”
Passengers are permitted to travel with firearms only in checked baggage if they are unloaded and packed in a hard-sided locked case. Then the locked case should be taken to the airline check-in counter to be declared. TSA has details on how to properly travel with a firearm posted on its website.
Bringing a gun to an airport checkpoint carries a federal civil penalty because TSA reserves the right to issue a civil penalty to travelers who have guns and gun parts with them at a checkpoint. Civil penalties for bringing a gun into a checkpoint can stretch into thousands of dollars, depending on mitigating circumstances. This applies to travelers with or without concealed gun carry permits because even though an individual may have a concealed carry permit, it does not allow for a firearm to be carried onto an airplane. This also applies to travelers who are enrolled in the TSA PreCheck® program, who will lose their TSA PreCheck privileges if they bring a gun to a checkpoint.
The complete list of civil penalties is posted online.
When a gun is detected in the checkpoint X-ray unit, the conveyor belt is stopped and the Maryland Transportation Authority Police are notified. Police remove the carry-on bag from the X-ray unit because TSA does not want its officers handling firearms. Police determine whether a traveler is arrested or issued a criminal citation. Meanwhile the remaining passengers in the checkpoint lane either wait for the issue to be resolved or they are shifted to another checkpoint lane, thus delaying dozens of passengers from getting to their gates.
Last year, 6,542 firearms were caught at airport security checkpoints nationwide. During the first nine months of 2023, TSA officers detected more than 5,000 guns at checkpoints across the country and the agency is on track to surpass the record-setting number of guns caught nationwide in 2022.
Firearm possession laws vary by state and locality and passengers should do their homework to make sure that they are not violating any local firearm laws. Travelers should also contact their airline as they may have additional requirements for traveling with firearms and ammunition.
Unsure if an item should be packed in a carry-on bag, checked bag, either or neither? Download the free myTSA app, which has a handy “What can I bring?” feature that allows you to type in the item to find out if it can fly. Or ask on Twitter or Facebook Messenger at @AskTSA. Travelers may send a question by texting “Travel” to AskTSA (275-872).