ARLINGTON, Va. – Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officers caught an Arlington County, Virginia, man with a 9mm handgun loaded with seven bullets including one in the chamber at a Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport security checkpoint early this morning, Monday, Feb. 8.
A TSA officer spotted the handgun on the checkpoint X-ray machine’s monitor as the man’s carry-on items were being screened. TSA immediately alerted Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority police, which responded to the checkpoint, confiscated the weapon and questioned the man, who was cited on a local charge. He is facing stiff Federal civil penalties for bringing a loaded gun to an airport security checkpoint.
TSA reserves the right to issue a civil penalty to travelers who have guns and gun parts with them at a checkpoint. A typical first offense for carrying a loaded handgun into a checkpoint is $4,100 and can go as high as $13,669 depending on any 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. If a traveler with a gun is a member of TSA PreCheck, that individual will lose their TSA PreCheck privileges.
When an individual shows up at a checkpoint with a firearm, the checkpoint lane comes to a standstill until the police resolve the incident. Guns at checkpoints can delay travelers from getting to their gates.
Nationwide, TSA officers detected 3,257 firearms on passengers or their carry-on bags at checkpoints last year, although the total number of passengers screened at airport checkpoints across the country fell by 500 million compared to 2019 due to the pandemic. The result was that twice as many firearms per million passengers screened were detected at checkpoints in 2020 compared to 2019. In 2020, TSA caught approximately 10 firearms per million passengers as compared to about five firearms per million passengers in 2019. Of the guns caught by TSA in 2020, about 83 percent were loaded.
Passengers are permitted to travel with firearms in checked baggage if they are properly packaged and declared at their airline ticket counter. Firearms must be unloaded, packed in a hard-sided case, locked, and packed separately from ammunition. Firearm possession laws vary by state and locality.
TSA has details on how to properly travel with a firearm posted on its website. Travelers should also contact their airline as they may have additional requirements for traveling with firearms and ammunition.