Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officers at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) prevented two Alexandria, Va., residents from carrying their handguns onto their flights yesterday, Thursday, Sept. 29. These gun catches came on the heels of another gun that was caught a day earlier, which resulted in three guns caught in a two-day span.
Thursday morning a woman was stopped with her .380 caliber gun among her carry-on items. It was not loaded. Later in the afternoon, a man was stopped with a 9mm handgun loaded with 14 bullets, including one in the chamber. He also had an additional 14 bullets among three gun magazines. The two incidents were not related.
In each instance when TSA officers spotted the firearms, the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) Police were notified, confiscated the weapons and cited the travelers on weapons charges.
“It is disturbing to see so many individuals carrying their firearms to our security checkpoints,” said John Busch, TSA’s Federal Security Director for the airport. “If you own a firearm, our web site, www.tsa.gov, has detailed information on how to safely transport it for a flight. We are happy to help transport it as long as it is properly packed and declared with the airline.”
Passengers are permitted to travel with firearms only in checked baggage if they are unloaded, packed in a hard-sided locked case and declared at the airline counter so that it can be placed in the belly of the aircraft with other checked baggage as described on the TSA website.
Bringing a gun to an airport checkpoint also 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 handgun 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 may 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.
Nationwide, TSA officers detected 5,972 firearms on passengers or their carry-on bags at checkpoints last year. Of the guns caught by TSA in 2021, about 86 percent were loaded.