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Weekly Update: TSA Firearm – and Sword! – Detections

Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officers continue to maintain their vigilance as travelers arrive at airport checkpoints with guns, most of which are loaded. 

On May 2, TSA officers caught a Chenango County, N.Y., man with a loaded handgun at the Syracuse Hancock International Airport security checkpoint in the early morning. The a 9mm caliber handgun was loaded with six bullets. A TSA officer spotted the handgun on the checkpoint X-ray machine’s monitor as the man’s belongings were being screened. The handgun was found in his carry-on bag. TSA immediately alerted the Syracuse Police, which responded to the checkpoint and confiscated the weapon. The man, a resident of Sherburne, N.Y., told officials that he had placed the gun in his bag when he went hiking and forgot that he had his loaded gun with him. 

The same day, TSA officers at Philadelphia International Airport stopped the 12th firearm this year as they detected a .357 caliber handgun among a passenger’s carry-on items. This gun was not loaded. When the TSA officers spotted the gun in the checkpoint X-ray machine, the Philadelphia Police were alerted, confiscated the gun and detained the man for questioning before citing him. TSA forwarded the incident to be followed up with the issuance of a federal financial civil penalty. The man told officials that he had been hunting turkeys and brought the gun along with him for protection from bears during his hunting outing. Later he forgot that he had the gun among his carry-on items when he arrived at the airport for his flight.

On May 5, TSA officers at Arnold Palmer Regional Airport prevented a Blair County, Pa., man from bringing a loaded handgun onto his flight. The man was caught with a 9mm handgun loaded with six bullets. He told officials that the gun belonged to his wife, with whom he was traveling. When the TSA officer spotted the gun in the checkpoint X-ray machine, the police were alerted and did not allow the couple to travel with the gun. 

“Part of being a responsible gun owner is knowing where your firearm is at all times,” said Karen Keys-Turner, TSA’s Federal Security Director for the airport. “Not knowing that you’re carrying a deadly weapon is inexcusable.”

The week ended with TSA officers at Norfolk International Airport stopping a Georgia resident from carrying a loaded handgun onto his flight on Sunday, May 8. This was the seventh firearm stopped at the airport’s checkpoint this year. TSA officers stopped the man when his carry-on bags 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 cited the man on a weapons violation. The case will be forwarded to the Norfolk Commonwealth’s Attorney for possible criminal prosecution. The man was carrying a 9mm caliber handgun loaded with nine bullets, including one in the chamber.

TSA officers are not only on the lookout for firearms. An Alexandria, Va., man was cited by police after TSA officers unloaded a stash of 23 prohibited items, mostly knives, from the man’s carry-on bag at one of the security checkpoints at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport on May 4. 

But perhaps the most bizarre catch reported by TSA last week came at Boston Logan International Airport where TSA officers found a sword in a walking cane. A supervisory TSA officer was called to the X-ray to review the images. Once the cane was secured, the passenger was asked about the cane and its hidden component. Clearly surprised, the passenger said he bought the cane and had no idea a sword was attached to the handle. TSA notified Massachusetts State Police, and after they arrived, the passenger surrendered the cane. After police questioned him, the passenger was cleared to fly with no further action.

TSA reserves the right to issue a civil penalty of up to $13,900 to individuals who bring weapons with them to a checkpoint. TSA has details on how to properly travel with a firearm posted on its website.

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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