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TSA Stops More Firearms Ahead of Busiest Weekend of the Year

Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and Port Authority Police officials are highly concerned about the frequency that they are seeing travelers carry ammunition and handguns to security checkpoints at Newark Liberty International Airport. Most of those guns are found to be loaded.

“There appears to be an epidemic of ammunition that is cropping up at our security checkpoints—one that is easily preventable,” said Thomas Carter, TSA’s Federal Security Director for New Jersey. “Guns, ammunition and security checkpoints don’t mix. Guns and ammunition are never allowed to pass through a security checkpoint to be carried onto a flight, even if a traveler has a concealed carry permit. However, passengers can transport their guns and ammunition for their trips if they pack them properly in checked baggage and declare them to the airline.”

The TSA team at Newark Liberty International Airport detected 12 firearms at the security checkpoints in 2021 and so far this year they have already detected ten guns.

“We work side-by-side and in strong partnership with the Port Authority Police on incidents involving guns at the airport,” Carter said.    

“The Port Authority continues to work in partnership with our TSA colleagues to ensure a safe and secure travel experience for the tens of millions of passengers who pass through our airports each year,” said Port Authority Chief Security Officer John Bilich. “Make no mistake. Those who break the law will be held accountable. We thank the TSA for its vigilance in helping to detect and remove firearms at airport checkpoints.”

Other checkpoint firearm catches this week include a 9mm handgun loaded with 12 bullets including one in the chamber. TSA officers at Richmond International Airport spotted the gun in the man’s carry-on bag while performing routine X-ray scans on June 27. TSA alerted airport police, who responded to the checkpoint, confiscated the handgun and cited the man on a weapons violation. It was the third gun caught at the airport so far this month and the ninth handgun that TSA officers have caught at the security checkpoint this year.

The following day, a TSA officer at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport prevented a District of Columbia resident from bringing a loaded handgun onto his flight. It was the third gun stopped by TSA officers so far this month and the 12th gun detected by TSA officers at the airport so far this year. The 9mm gun was loaded with nine bullets, and was detected via the X-ray machine as the man was entering the security checkpoint with his carry-on items. TSA officials notified the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority police who confiscated the gun and cited the man on a weapons charge.

The same day, at Norfolk International Airport, TSA officers stopped a local area resident when her carry-on bag triggered an alarm in the security checkpoint X-ray unit. Upon spotting the gun, TSA alerted the Norfolk Airport Authority Police, who responded to the checkpoint, confiscated the handgun, and issued the woman a summons on a weapons violation. The gun was loaded with eight bullets. The case will be forwarded to the Norfolk Commonwealth’s Attorney for possible criminal prosecution. It was the twelfth firearm caught at the airport so far this year.

Also on June 28, TSA officers stopped a male passenger from carrying a firearm onto an airplane at T.F. Green Airport. On Tuesday afternoon during security screening, a TSA officer detected the firearm in the man’s carry-on bag. Rhode Island Airport Police (RIAP) responded, and discovered the 9mm firearm was loaded. along with a magazine containing a total of 11 rounds. The Oklahoma resident did have a permit, but did not check and declare the firearm. RIAP retained possession of the firearm and the passenger was eventually cleared through security and allowed to continue. This was the second firearm detection at a T.F. Green security checkpoint this year. In 2021, TSA detected two firearms at the airport’s security checkpoints, and four in 2020. Altogether there have been 18 firearm detections at New England security checkpoints so far in 2022, with the majority (14) taking place at Boston Logan International Airport.

The week’s results come full circle as a Georgia resident was arrested by police after TSA officers prevented him from carrying a loaded handgun onto his flight on July 1, at Newark Liberty International Airport. The handgun was detected when the TSA officer who was staffing a checkpoint X-ray monitor in Terminal B spotted the weapon inside the man’s carry-on bag. TSA officials then alerted Port Authority Police who confiscated the handgun and arrested the man on weapons charges. As is so often the case, the man told officials that he forgot that he had his loaded gun with him when he entered the security checkpoint.

“This is lining up to be what is likely the busiest travel weekend since the start of the pandemic and it’s no time to be bringing a deadly weapon such as a loaded handgun to a security checkpoint,” said Carter. “Not only is it illegal to carry a gun through a security checkpoint, but it is also disruptive to the security operation. It delays the travelers in line when a gun is detected. You can’t just toss a loaded into a carry-on bag and then head to the airport. This individual now faces a stiff federal financial civil penalty.”

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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