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Saturday, May 25, 2024

TSA Stops More Guns at Checkpoints as it Predicts Higher Spring Break Passenger Volumes

TSOs at John F. Kennedy International Airport prevented a Connecticut woman from bringing her loaded handgun through a TSA security checkpoint on Feb. 10, while she was escorting a minor to their gate.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is prepared for spring break travelers and offers a few travel tips for the most efficient checkpoint experience. The spring break travel season begins around Feb. 17 and continues through April 21. TSA anticipates that its Transportation Security Officers (TSOs) will screen increasing numbers of passengers at airport checkpoints as travel volumes may exceed pre-pandemic levels.

“In January, we experienced our first full month where travel volumes exceeded the same month in 2019. We fully expect to see an upward trend in travel volumes throughout 2023, including during the spring break period,” said TSA Administrator David Pekoske. “We coordinate closely with airports and air carriers to prepare for the projected increase in travel volumes and we expect to meet our wait time standards of 30 minutes or less in standard lanes and 10 minutes or less in TSA PreCheck® lanes. However, there may be some situations where the capacity of a checkpoint is exceeded.”

One thing certain to slow down checkpoint operations is when someone arrives with a firearm in their carry-on bag. Last year, TSOs confiscated more than 6,542 firearms from airport passengers, more than in any other year since TSA’s inception. Eighty-eight percent of those guns were loaded, posing an increased security risk at the airport and on a flight should the weapon make it that far.

TSA recently increased and expanded penalties for bringing a gun to an airport checkpoint, yet this does not seem to have deterred everyone. 

Only yesterday, a Lawrence County, Ohio, man was cited by police after TSOs at Huntington Tri-State Airport detected a handgun in the man’s carry-on bag. The gun was loaded with five bullets. The gun was caught as the man, a resident of Chesapeake, Ohio, 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 who confiscated the gun and cited the man on a weapons charge. He also faces a stiff financial civil penalty up to $15,000 from TSA.

Two handguns were caught at the TSA checkpoint at Appleton International Airport within a week, making a total of four for the year so far. Only two firearms were detected at the airport in the whole of 2022. TSA also disclosed that there have been multiple instances of improperly packed and/or undeclared firearms in checked bags at Appleton this year, which can also incur a fine for the passenger.

On Feb. 13, a Connecticut man was arrested by police when TSOs at Westchester County Airport prevented him from bringing a loaded handgun through the security checkpoint. The .45 caliber gun was loaded with seven bullets. The gun was detected among the carry-on items that the man had in his possession as he entered the TSA checkpoint. The X-ray unit alerted on the carry-on bag, which required a closer inspection. The firearm was removed by a police officer with the Westchester County Police, who confiscated the gun and arrested the man on weapons charges. In addition to being arrested, he now faces a stiff financial civil penalty for bringing a gun to a TSA security checkpoint. This was the first firearm that TSA has detected at the airport so far this year. Last year, TSOs prevented four firearms from getting through checkpoints at Westchester County Airport. 

TSOs at Roanoke-Blacksburg Regional Airport prevented a Bedford County, Va., resident from bringing her loaded handgun onto her flight on Feb. 12. The .380 caliber gun was loaded with five bullets. The gun was caught as the woman 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 who confiscated the gun and cited the woman on weapons charges. She also faces a stiff financial civil penalty.

TSOs stopped two firearms from making their way onboard airplanes at John Glenn Columbus International Airport in separate incidents last weekend. The first incident occurred around 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, Feb. 11. A passenger presented their property for screening, and a TSA officer detected the image of a firearm on the X-ray screen. TSA officials immediately alerted Columbus Regional Airport Authority Police. The firearm was loaded. Officers confiscated the weapon and cited the passenger, who stated they forgot the firearm was in the bag. The second incident occurred Sunday, Feb. 12. A firearm was detected in a passenger’s carry-on bag. Columbus Regional Airport Authority Police again responded and took possession of the weapon.

A Cumberland County, Pa., man was cited by police after TSOs at Harrisburg International Airport detected a handgun in his carry-on bag on Feb. 12.  The 9mm gun was loaded with nine bullets. The gun was caught as the man entered the security checkpoint. The X-ray unit alerted on the carry-on bag, which was opened by TSA officers for a closer inspection. The firearm was removed by the local police who cited the man and allowed the man to return the firearm to his vehicle. It was the second gun that TSA officers have detected at the airport so far this month. In addition to the criminal citation issued by the police, the man also faces a stiff financial civil penalty from TSA.  

Another traveler faces a financial penalty after TSOs at Philadelphia International Airport prevented him from bringing his handgun onto a flight on Feb. 10. The 9mm gun was unloaded, however the man’s carry-on bag also contained 14 bullets that were tucked into his carry-on bag near the firearm. The gun was caught as the Willingboro, N.J. man entered the security checkpoint. The X-ray unit alerted on the carry-on bag, which was removed by the local police who confiscated the gun and arrested the man on weapons charges.  

Even those not flying out of the airport can face charges and penalties for bringing a gun to the checkpoint. TSOs at John F. Kennedy International Airport prevented a Connecticut woman from bringing her loaded handgun through a TSA security checkpoint on Feb. 10, while she was escorting a minor to their gate. The .22 caliber gun was loaded with nine bullets, including one in the chamber. Port Authority Police arrested her. The woman was not ticketed to fly. She received a “gate pass” from the airline to allow her to escort her minor child through the checkpoint and to their gate. However, she was prevented from doing so once the TSA officers detected the gun and the police notified. The gun was caught as the woman 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 her on weapons charges. She also faces a stiff financial civil penalty.

And TSOs at Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport recently stopped the 14th firearm at the airport so far this year, in this case an assault rifle and 163 rounds of ammunition.

author avatar
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.
Kylie Bielby
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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