WASHINGTON – The number of firearms caught by Transportation Security Administration officers at checkpoints at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) have increased significantly this year. TSA officers caught the sixth gun of the year yesterday, Feb. 20, just eight weeks into the year. In 2018, TSA officers at DCA caught 16 firearms at the airport checkpoints, and the six guns caught so far this year surpass one-third of the total caught last year.
Wednesday’s gun catch also marks the fourth gun caught by TSA officers within the past seven days. TSA officers caught two handguns Feb. 13 (a 9 mm and a .380 caliber gun); one Feb. 17 (a 9 mm) and the fourth yesterday (also a 9 mm). All four travelers had their weapons confiscated and they were cited on state weapons charges and issued a summons.
Wednesday’s gun catch, a 9 mm handgun loaded with 11 bullets, included one bullet in the gun’s chamber. A TSA officer spotted the handgun in the checkpoint X-ray machine, contacted the Metropolitan Washington Authority Police, who arrived at the checkpoint, confiscated the gun and cited the man, a resident of Chesterfield County, Virginia, on a state weapons charge.
Nationwide last year, 4,239 firearms were discovered in carry-on bags at checkpoints across the country, averaging about 11.6 firearms per day, approximately a 7 percent increase nationally in firearm discoveries from the total of 3,957 detected in 2017. Eighty-six percent of firearms detected at checkpoints last year were loaded and nearly 34 percent had a bullet in the chamber.
TSA Firearm Catches at DCA
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As a reminder, individuals who bring firearms to the checkpoint are subject to possible criminal charges from law enforcement. Even travelers with concealed firearm permits are not allowed to bring guns onto airplanes. In addition, TSA has the authority to assess civil penalties of up to $13,000 for weapons violations. A typical first offense for carrying a handgun into a checkpoint is $3,900. The complete list of penalties is posted online.
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.