Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officers at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) prevented a Spotsylvania, Va., woman from bringing her loaded handgun onto her flight early this morning (April 10). The .380 caliber gun was loaded with five bullets.
The weapon was caught as the woman entered the security checkpoint. The X-ray unit alerted on her handbag, which was searched and the firearm discovered inside a zippered pouch inside the purse. The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority Police confiscated the gun and cited the woman on a weapons charge. The woman told officials she carries the gun for protection and forgot that she had her gun with her.
“The spring travel season is here and checkpoint operations are very busy,” said John Busch, TSA’s Federal Security Director the airport. “We’ve seen an increase in travelers, and I am personally grateful that TSA officers here at Reagan National Airport and across the country remain focused on their mission.
Unfortunately when a gun-owner forgets where they store their firearm and tries to bring it through our checkpoint we have to stop the screening operation and move all passengers to another area. The unsecured firearm in a traveler’s carry-on presents a high risk in a crowded environment and we take these situations very seriously. Let this incident serve as a reminder to others who are traveling with a firearm, to take a few moments before you come to the airport to refresh your familiarity with the proper procedures on how to pack a gun for a flight. Firearms should never be brought to the security checkpoint in carry-on luggage.”
Passengers are permitted to travel with firearms only in checked baggage if they are unloaded and packed in a hard-sided locked case. 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.
In addition to the citation by airport police, this individual now faces a stiff financial civil penalty, and penalties for carrying a weapons were 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, who will lose their TSA PreCheck privileges if they bring a gun to a checkpoint. Individuals who bring their gun to a security checkpoint also face a federal financial civil penalty.
Last year, 6,542 firearms were caught at 262 out of 430 airport security checkpoints nationwide. Eighty-eight percent of those guns were loaded.
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.
Unsure if an item should be packed in a carry-on bag, checked bag, either or neither? Download the free myTSA app, which has a handy “What can I bring?” feature that allows you to type in the item to find out if it can fly. Or ask on Twitter or Facebook Messenger at @AskTSA. Travelers may send a question by texting “Travel” to AskTSA (275-872).