TSA kicks off 2023 by finding rifle, pistol in carry-on baggage at DCA

The new year is starting off with a proverbial bang for security at Reagan National Airport.

A Transportation Security Administration officer stopped an Alexandria man who tried to bring a loaded, semi-automatic folding rifle onto to a flight on New Year’s Day, the agency said. Then, three days later, the TSA allegedly confiscated a loaded, semi-automatic handgun from a Prince William County man’s carry-on baggage.

“It is only the fourth day of 2023 and already our officers have prevented two individuals from bringing loaded guns through the security checkpoint and onto their flights” John Busch, TSA’s Federal Security Director at National Airport, said in a statement. “Let’s hope that the frequency level of people bringing guns to our checkpoints does not continue this new year. Individuals who own firearms should familiarize themselves with regulations regarding where their weapons can and cannot be carried.”

Both men were cited on weapons charges. The citations are civil offenses that come with a fine, not jail time.

More on the rifle confiscated on Sunday, below, from a TSA press release.

A Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officer at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) prevented an Alexandria, Va., man from bringing his semi-automatic folding rifle onto his flight on Sunday, Jan. 1. The 9mm rifle was loaded with 20 bullets. There were a total of 56 bullets packed with his gun in three gun magazines.

The weapon was caught as the man entered the security checkpoint. The X-ray unit alerted on the man’s carry-on bag. TSA officials notified the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority police who confiscated the gun and cited the man on a weapons charge. He told officials that he has two very similar looking backpacks–one for the firing range and one for travel–and that he accidentally brought the wrong one with him to the airport.

“This was no way to start the new year,” said John Busch, TSA’s Federal Security Director for the airport. “Immediately following a record-setting year for firearms at TSA checkpoints, we have this one. Gun enthusiasts with range bags similar to carry-ons need to be especially mindful. If you own a firearm, it is your responsibility to know where it is, and that it cannot go through an airport security checkpoint. In addition to the citation by airport police, this individual now faces a stiff financial civil penalty–a penalty for carrying a weapon that was recently increased to a maximum of $15,000.”

Firearms are not permitted through a security checkpoint because passengers should not have access to a firearm during a flight. This even applies to travelers with concealed carry permits or are enrolled in the TSA PreCheck® program. Individuals who bring their gun to a security checkpoint face a stiff federal financial civil penalty.

Passengers are permitted to travel with firearms only in checked baggage if they are properly packaged and declared at their airline ticket counter. Firearms must be unloaded, packed in a hard-sided locked case, and packed separately from ammunition. Then the locked case should be taken to the airline check-in counter to be declared. TSA has details on how to properly travel with a firearm posted on its website.

Bringing a gun to an airport checkpoint carries a federal civil penalty because TSA reserves the right to issue a civil penalty to travelers who have guns and gun parts with them at a checkpoint. Civil penalties for bringing a gun into a checkpoint can stretch into thousands of dollars, depending on mitigating circumstances. This applies to travelers with or without concealed gun carry permits because even though an individual may have a concealed carry permit, it does not allow for a firearm to be carried onto an airplane. The complete list of civil penalties is posted online. Additionally, if a traveler with a gun is a member of TSA PreCheck®, that individual will lose their TSA PreCheck privileges.

Firearm possession laws vary by state and locality and passengers should do their homework to make sure that they are not violating any local firearm laws. Travelers should also contact their airline as they may have additional requirements for traveling with firearms and ammunition.