The number of firearms caught by Transportation Security Administration officers at checkpoints at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) have increased at an alarming rate this year as TSA officers caught the seventh gun of the year yesterday, Feb. 25, just nine weeks into the year. In 2018, TSA officers at DCA caught 16 firearms during all 52 weeks of the year and with seven already detected during the first nine weeks of 2019, it puts the count on a disturbing pace to blow by the 16 caught last year.
Monday’s gun catch also marks the fifth gun caught by TSA officers within the past 12 days. TSA officers caught two handguns Feb. 13 (a 9 mm and a .380 caliber guns); one Feb. 17 (a 9 mm); the fourth Feb. 20 (a 9 mm); and yesterday’s gun marking the fifth (also a 9 mm). All five travelers had their weapons confiscated and were cited on state weapons charges and issued a summons.
Monday’s gun catch, a 9 mm handgun loaded with nine 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 Waynesboro, Pa., on a state weapons charge.
“This is a troubling trend,” said TSA Federal Security Director Kerwin P. Wilson, who oversees the TSA operation at DCA. “We don’t want to break this type of a record, but at this pace, it sure looks like that is likely.
“Travelers who want to travel with their firearms can do so, but the proper way to do so is to pack your unloaded gun in a locked hard-sided case and then take it to your airline check-in counter to declare that you want to fly with it. The airline representative will see to it that your firearm is placed in the belly of the aircraft with the other checked baggage to ensure that nobody has access to it during the flight. Travelers should never try to bring their guns through a security checkpoint.”
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.
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 has details on how to properly travel with a firearm posted on its web site. Airlines may have additional requirements for traveling with firearms and ammunition. Travelers should also contact their airline regarding firearm and ammunition carriage policies.