ARLINGTON, Va. – Transportation Security Administration officers at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) stopped a man with a loaded gun at one of the airport checkpoints Friday, Sept. 7, just four days before the 17th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
TSA officers stopped the man with a 9 mm handgun loaded with seven bullets in his carry-on bag and an additional six rifle rounds that were also in the bag. It marked the 11th handgun caught so far this year at the airport. In 2017, TSA officers caught 13 guns at the airport’s checkpoints.
TSA officers immediately contacted the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) Police, and when they arrived at the checkpoint, they confiscated the firearm and detained the man for questioning. Police later allowed the man to properly check the firearm with the airline for it to travel unloaded in a hard-sided, locked case with checked baggage in the belly of the plane, as he should have done in the first place.
When an individual brings a firearm to a checkpoint, it closes the checkpoint lane until the situation can be resolved, thus forcing the other travelers to shift into another lane and delaying their passage through the checkpoint.
Approximately one in 200,000 travelers brought guns to checkpoints nationwide in 2017 (the last time such data was available) and 84 percent of them were loaded. Of the guns caught at checkpoints in 2017, 77 percent were carried by males.
Individuals who bring firearms to the checkpoint are subject to possible criminal charges from law enforcement. This includes travelers with gun permits. A permit to carry a firearm does not allow for it to be brought onto an aircraft.
TSA has the authority to access civil penalties of up to $13,000 for travelers who bring weapons to airports. A typical first offense for carrying a handgun into a checkpoint is $3,900. The complete list of penalties is posted online.
Passengers are permitted to travel with firearms in checked baggage if they are properly packaged and declared. 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’s website has details on how to properly travel with a firearm. Airlines may have additional requirements for traveling with firearms and ammunition. Travelers should also contact their airline regarding firearm and ammunition carriage policies.