TSA, airport officials note recent surge in checkpoint firearm discoveries at Spokane International Airport

Local Press Release

SPOKANE, Wash. – Officials with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and Spokane International Airport (GEG) on March 11, discussed a recent increase in the number of firearms brought by travelers to the airport security checkpoints and highlighted the penalties travelers face for doing so. Officials also provided tips for passengers who are traveling with firearms and ammunition on a commercial aircraft.

In the past three weeks, passengers departing GEG have brought nine firearms to the security checkpoints in carry-on luggage. The two most recent incidents occurred Friday, March 8 and Saturday, March 9. TSA officers discovered all of the firearms during routine X-ray screening of travelers’ personal property. 

If a passenger brings a firearm to the TSA security checkpoint, TSA notifies airport law enforcement and the passenger faces arrest and criminal charges permitted under Washington state law. TSA also reviews the circumstances of the incident to determine if the agency can levy a civil penalty against the passenger.

The recommended civil penalty for a firearm starts at $2,000 and can go up to the statutory maximum of $13,333 per violation. Factors TSA considers when determining the civil penalty amount include whether the firearm was loaded and whether there was accessible ammunition. TSA evaluates each incident on a case-by-case basis.

Individuals who violate rules regarding traveling with firearms will have their Trusted Traveler status and TSA Pre✓® expedited screening benefits revoked for a period of time. The duration of the disqualification will depend upon the seriousness of the offense and if there is a repeated history of violations.

Below is a summary of the 2019 firearm discoveries to date at GEG:

Date Model Loaded? Traveler cited?
Feb. 17 .380 caliber Glock 42 Yes Yes
Feb. 19 9 mm Glock 19 Yes Yes
Feb. 20 .380 caliber Ruger LCP2 Yes Yes
Feb. 20 .40 caliber Glock 27 Yes Yes
Feb. 22 .40 caliber Glock 30 Yes Yes
Feb. 22 .22 caliber Ruger Yes Yes
Feb. 26 .45 caliber Glock 30 Yes Yes
March 8 .357 caliber Smith & Wesson Yes Yes
March 9 .357 caliber Kimber Yes Yes

Nationwide, the number of firearms discovered in travelers’ carry-on luggage has increased year over year. Below is a chart dating back to 2014 with national and local data.

Year Nationwide GEG
2015 2,653 16
2016 3,391 20
2017 3,952 26
2018 4,239 19
2019 (through March 10) 732 9

Firearms can be transported on a commercial aircraft only if they are unloaded, packed in a locked, hard-sided case and placed in checked baggage. Ammunition and firearm parts, including firearm frames, receivers, clips and magazines are also prohibited in carry-on baggage and must be checked.

At the airport during the check-in process, a passenger needs to go to the airline ticket counter to declare the firearm, ammunition and any firearm parts. Prior to traveling, passengers are encouraged to check gun laws and regulations at their destination to ensure they are in compliance with local and state laws.

Firearm magazines and ammunition clips - whether loaded or empty – must be securely boxed in a hard-sided case containing the unloaded firearm. Small arms ammunition that does not exceed .75 caliber for a rifle or pistol and shotgun shells of any gauge, may be transported in the same case as the firearm. TSA recommends travelers check with their airline prior to their flight to ensure they comply with any airline-specific requirements.

Any type of replica firearm is prohibited in carry-on baggage and must be transported in checked luggage. TSA permits rifle scopes to be transported in either carry-on or checked bags.

TSA reminds passengers to be aware of the contents of their carry-on bag prior to coming to the security checkpoint. TSA has multiple resources available to passengers to help them determine whether an item is permitted in carry-on baggage, checked baggage or not at all.

Travelers can use the “Can I Bring?” feature on the TSA mobile app, myTSA, or visit the TSA website. Travelers can also Tweet or Message “AskTSA” if they have a travel question or are unsure if an item is allowed through security in a carry-on bag. Just snap a picture or send a question and get real-time assistance.

Additional traveler information specifically related to the commercial air transport of firearms and ammunition can be found here.

More information on TSA’s civil penalties for prohibited items can be found online.