Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officers at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) prevented two travelers from bringing their handguns onto flights within a four-day span, bringing the total number of guns detected at the airport checkpoints to five so far this month.
Each weapon was caught as the individuals entered the security checkpoint. The X-ray unit alerted on the carry-on bags, which were searched and the firearms removed by the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority police who confiscated the guns and cited each individual on weapons charges.
On Sunday, Jan. 22, a Fredericksburg, Va., man was prevented from bringing his 9mm handgun onto his flight. The man told officials that he forgot that he had his gun with him. Four days earlier, on Thursday, Jan. 19, a Tennessee man was prevented from carrying his loaded .380 caliber handgun onto his flight.
“Individuals who want to bring their guns with them when they fly need to pack them properly in their checked luggage, and declare them at their airline check-in counter to be transported in the belly of the plane where nobody has access to firearms during a flight,” said John Busch, TSA’s Federal Security Director for the airport. “These marked the fourth and fifth guns that our officers have detected in just a little more than three weeks into the new year, and I can assure you we don’t want to break our 2022 record. However, if this keeps up, that’s just what will happen. Please understand that any time dangerous items are presented in the screening checkpoint, we have serious safety concerns for all in the area, and the resolution disrupts the process for the passengers waiting behind the offender. Individuals who own firearms should familiarize themselves with regulations regarding where their weapons can and cannot be carried.”
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, 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.
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.
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.