The spring break travel season, which began around Feb. 17 and continues through April 21 will bring increasing numbers of passengers to airport checkpoints, and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) predicts travel volumes may exceed pre-pandemic levels.
Remaining vigilant throughout this busy travel period, TSA officers continue to detect firearms in travelers’ carry-on bags, most of which are loaded, presenting a danger not only to the TSA officer searching the bag, but also to the checkpoint area and, potentially, the flight and its passengers.
TSA officers at Westchester County Airport prevented a Florida man from bringing his loaded handgun onto his flight on March 6. The man’s 9mm handgun was loaded with seven bullets including one in the chamber. The gun was caught as the man entered the security checkpoint. The X-ray unit alerted on the carry-on bag, which required a closer inspection. The firearm was removed by the local police. The man told officials that he forgot that he had his loaded gun with him. He now faces a stiff financial civil penalty for bringing a gun to a TSA security checkpoint. The penalty for carrying weapons recently increased to a maximum of $15,000.
“Guns are not permitted through any airport security checkpoint,” said Robert Duffy, TSA’s Federal Security Director for the airport. “Already this is the second handgun that our officers have prevented from getting onto a flight here at Westchester so far this year. Hopefully this will be a strong reminder to others not to bring their guns to our checkpoints. This individual now faces a stiff Federal financial penalty that could cost him thousands of dollars. Additionally, it is important to remember that a concealed carry permit or enrollment in the TSA PreCheck® program are not exemptions from this policy.”
Meanwhile, TSA officers at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport prevented an Alexandria man from bringing his loaded handgun onto his flight on March 9. The 9mm caliber gun was loaded with 15 bullets. The weapon 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 the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority police who confiscated the gun and arrested the individual on a weapons charge and released him on a summons. The man told officials that he forgot that he had his gun with him.
It was the same story at John F. Kennedy International Airport after TSA officers detected a loaded .38 caliber revolver in a man’s backpack. The gun was caught on March 9 as the man, a resident of Evansburg, entered the security checkpoint. The X-ray unit alerted on the carry-on bag, which required a closer inspection. The firearm was removed by the Port Authority Police who confiscated the gun and arrested him on weapons charges. The man claimed that he did not know that the gun was in his bag. In addition to being arrested, he now faces a stiff financial civil penalty for bringing a gun to a TSA security checkpoint. The penalty for carrying weapons recently increased to a maximum of $15,000. This was the second firearm that TSA has detected at the airport so far this year. Last year, TSA officers prevented seven firearms from getting through checkpoints at JFK International Airport. All of them were loaded.
“Traveling with a loaded gun that you don’t even know you are carrying is a public safety concern, considering that the bag could be misplaced or the firearm could accidentally be discharged during a bag search,” said John Essig, TSA’s Federal Security Director for JFK International Airport. “We are happy to make sure that firearms travel with their owners as long as the guns are unloaded and packed properly.”
It’s not only firearms that are not allowed at TSA checkpoints, prohibited items include some sporting goods, tools and knives. For example, TSA officers at Appleton International Airport stopped a traveler from boarding her flight with a vintage cap gun, sheathed knife, and sword-shaped letter opener.