An Arlington, Virginia, resident was cited by police after Transportation Security Administration officers detected a loaded handgun in the man’s carry-on bag at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) on Sunday, July 7. It was the 11th gun that TSA officers have detected at the airport so far this year.
In 2018, TSA officers at DCA caught 16 firearms during the entire year and with 11 already detected so far this year, it puts the number on a disturbing record-setting pace. Disturbing because TSA would prefer to see the trend go in the opposite direction with fewer travelers bringing their guns to checkpoints.
Sunday’s gun catch, a 9 mm handgun, was loaded with 15 bullets. A TSA officer spotted the handgun in the checkpoint X-ray machine, contacted the Metropolitan Washington Airport Authority Police, who arrived at the checkpoint, confiscated the gun and cited the man on a state weapons charge.
Nationwide last year, 4,239 firearms were discovered in carry-on bags at checkpoints across the country, averaging about 11.6 firearms per day, approximately a 7% increase nationally in firearm discoveries from the total of 3,957 detected in 2017. Eighty-six percent of firearms detected at checkpoints last year were loaded and nearly 34% had a bullet in the chamber.
As a reminder, individuals who bring firearms to the checkpoint are subject to possible criminal charges from law enforcement. Even travelers with concealed firearm permits are not allowed to bring guns onto airplanes. In addition, TSA has the authority to assess civil penalties of up to $13,333 for weapons violations. A typical first offense for carrying a handgun into a checkpoint is $4,000. The complete list of penalties is posted online.
TSA has details on how to properly travel with a firearm posted on its website. Airlines may have additional requirements for traveling with firearms and ammunition. Travelers should also contact their airline regarding firearm and ammunition carriage policies.