DULLES, Va. – A Texas man was caught with a loaded gun at Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD) Saturday, Feb. 23 after a Transportation Security Administration officer spotted it in the man’s carry-on bag at one of the airport checkpoints.
The man was caught at the checkpoint with a .9 mm semi-automatic handgun loaded with eight bullets, including one that was chambered and ready to fire. The TSA officer who was staffing the checkpoint spotted the handgun when it appeared on the X-ray monitor.
TSA officers immediately contacted the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) Police, who permitted the man to hand off his weapon to a non-traveling companion.
It marked the third handgun that TSA officers have detected at the airport’s checkpoints so far this year. All have been loaded. In 2018, there were 17 firearms detected at the airport checkpoints by TSA officers.
In total, 4,239 firearms were discovered in carry-on bags at checkpoints across the country last year, 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.
Travelers who bring firearms to the checkpoint are subject to criminal charges from law enforcement and civil penalties from TSA. Even if a traveler has a concealed weapon permit, firearms are not permitted to be carried onto an airplane. However, travelers with proper firearm permits can travel legally with their firearms in their checked bags if they follow a few simple guidelines.
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.
As a reminder, 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. Even travelers who have a firearm permit are not allowed to bring their guns past checkpoints. 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.