ARLINGTON, Va. – Transportation Security Administration officers at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) stopped a man with a loaded handgun at one of the airport checkpoints Monday, Oct. 1, marking the 12th handgun caught so far this year. In 2017, TSA officers caught 13 guns at the airport’s checkpoints.
TSA officers caught the man, a resident of Lansdowne, Virginia, with a .380 caliber handgun loaded with 13 bullets including one in the chamber, in his carry-on bag. He also had two magazines for ammunition, a multi-tool with a knife and pepper spray with him—none of which are permitted past security checkpoints.
TSA officers immediately contacted the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) Police, and when they arrived at the checkpoint, they confiscated the firearm and other items and detained the man for questioning prior to citing him on weapons charges.
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.