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Thursday, August 18, 2022

TSA Officers Continue to Stop Guns and Knives at Airport Checkpoints

Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officers have prevented three individuals from bringing loaded guns past the security checkpoints at Philadelphia International Airport in the past five days. 

First, TSA officers stopped a Millville, N.J., man from carrying a revolver and five knives onto his flight on July 30. The Cumberland County resident was cited by the police. TSA then stopped a man from Eagles Mere, Pa., in Sullivan County, Pa., with a 9 mm handgun on August 2. The man had been issued a gate pass from the airline to escort his young daughter to her gate when he was caught with his gun and was arrested by police. Then on August 3, a woman from Reading, Pa., who was carrying an unloaded 9mm handgun, was also caught by TSA with her gun. She was cited by the police.

When the TSA officers spotted the guns in the checkpoint X-ray machine, the Philadelphia Police were alerted, confiscated the guns and detained the individuals for questioning before citing or arresting them. In each incident, TSA forwarded the incidents to be followed up with the issuance of a federal financial civil penalty.

“Three guns in five days is an epidemic. Bringing deadly weapons such as handguns to a security checkpoint is a very serious offense,” said Gerardo Spero, TSA’s Federal Security Director for Philadelphia International Airport. “Individuals are responsible for everything in their possession that they are carrying through a security checkpoint and there are severe consequences for bringing guns to a checkpoint. Not only do these three individuals face criminal charges, but they also will be receiving financial civil penalties for bringing a deadly weapon to a security checkpoint.”

Meanwhile, TSA officers stopped two passengers from carrying their firearms onto flights at Boston Logan International Airport recently. On August 1, during security screening at the PreCheck lane of the Delta checkpoint, TSA officers detected a firearm in a man’s backpack. TSA immediately alerted the Massachusetts State Police (MSP). MSP discovered the .380 caliber firearm was loaded with a chambered round. MSP confiscated the firearm and informed the New Hampshire resident he would receive a citation.

Two days later at Boston Logan’s A1 Delta security checkpoint, TSA officers detected a firearm in a man’s backpack. MSP responded and discovered the firearm was a loaded .9mm with a chambered round. MSP confiscated the firearm and informed the Massachusetts resident he would receive a summons in the mail.

“Once again our officers are on top of preventing firearms from entering the secure area of the airport,” said Bob Allison, TSA’s Federal Security Director for Massachusetts. “Carelessly traveling with a loaded firearm is a public safety concern, considering it could accidentally be discharged during a search. Gun owners need to ensure they know where their firearm is before traveling to the airport.”

TSA officers have now detected 16 firearms at Boston Logan’s security checkpoints this year, 14 of which have been loaded. TSA detected 18 firearms at the airport’s security checkpoints in 2021.

August seems to have started off on the wrong foot with numerous other catches across the country. For example, TSA officers prevented a handgun from making its way onboard an airplane at Des Moines International Airport on August 1. 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 the Des Moines Police Department. A law enforcement officer responded, confiscated the firearm, and issued a citation. The firearm was unloaded, and ammunition in its original box was discovered separately. The passenger, who has a permit to carry in the state of Iowa, stated he forgot that the gun was in his bag.

TSA officers at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) prevented a Charlottesville, Va., man from carrying his loaded handgun onto a flight on August 3. It was the 18th gun detected by TSA officers at the airport so far this year. The .40 caliber gun was loaded with five bullets and was among the man’s carry-on items. When TSA officers spotted the firearm, the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) Police were notified, confiscated the weapon and cited the man. The man told officials that he was in a rush to fly to Florida to attend a funeral and forgot that he had his loaded gun with him.

The same day, a California resident was cited by the police after TSA officers at Richmond International Airport caught him with a loaded handgun in his carry-on bag. The handgun was loaded with nine bullets. It was the11th gun caught so far this year at the airport. TSA officers stopped the man when his carry-on bag triggered an alarm in the security checkpoint X-ray unit. Upon spotting the weapon, TSA alerted airport police, who responded to the checkpoint, confiscated the handgun and cited the man on a weapons violation.  

On August 4, TSA officers stopped a man from carrying a loaded firearm onto his flight at Bradley International Airport. During Thursday morning security screening, TSA officers detected a firearm in the man’s carry-on bag. TSA immediately notified Connecticut State Police (CSP). During a search of the bag, CSP discovered a loaded .9mm firearm along with a total of 10 rounds. After questioning, CSP arrested the Connecticut resident for circumventing airport security, carrying a firearm without a permit, and possession of a large capacity magazine.

Also on August 4, TSA officers at Norfolk International Airport stopped two men from carrying loaded handguns onto their flights. First, A Norfolk, Va., man was caught with a 9mm handgun loaded with 10 bullets in his carry-on bag then an Elizabeth City, N.C., man was caught with a .38 caliber gun loaded with three bullets, including one in the chamber. It also was detected in his carry-on bag. The incidents were not related. In both cases, the carry-on bags triggered an alarm in the security checkpoint X-ray unit. Upon spotting the guns, TSA alerted the Norfolk Airport Authority Police, who responded to the checkpoint, confiscated the weapons and cited each individual on a weapons violation. The cases will be forwarded to the Norfolk Commonwealth’s Attorney for possible criminal prosecution.

And the week ended with another firearm brought to the checkpoint, this time at Huntington Tri-State Airport. A Florida man was cited by police after TSA officers caught the handgun in the man’s carry-on bag. The .22 caliber handgun was loaded with 10 bullets.  When the TSA officer spotted the gun in the checkpoint X-ray machine, local police were alerted, came to the checkpoint, confiscated the weapon and cited the man on a weapons charge. 

“Guns and airplanes don’t mix,” said Simone Beyer, TSA’s Acting Federal Security Director for West Virginia. “Guns at security checkpoints are a serious concern. There’s a right way to transport a gun for a flight and a wrong way. The wrong way is to bring it to a checkpoint. The right way is to make sure it’s unloaded, packed in a hard-sided locked case and brought to the airline check-in counter to be declared. The airline will make sure it is transported in the belly of the plane where nobody has access to it during a flight.”

Read guidelines on the correct way to travel with firearms and ammunition 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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