HUNTINGTON, WV – A Pinellas County, Florida, man was caught by Transportation Security Administration officers at Huntington Tri-State Airport (HTS) on Sunday, July 14, with a loaded .380 caliber handgun, marking the sixth gun caught at the airport’s checkpoint so far this year, and the second within a four-day span. By comparison, TSA officers caught two firearms at the HTS checkpoint in 2018.
TSA officers spotted the gun, which was loaded with six bullets, when the man’s belongings entered the X-ray machine. They contacted the airport police, who arrived at the checkpoint, confiscated the gun and detained the man, a resident of Belleair, Florida, for questioning.
Four days earlier, on July 10, TSA stopped a passenger with a loaded .40 caliber handgun in a carry-on bag at the same airport.
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.
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% 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% 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 their carry-on bags. If an individual is a TSA Pre✓® member, then that person could even lose TSA Pre✓® status. In addition, TSA has the authority to assess civil penalties of up to $13,333 for weapons violations. A typical first offense for carrying a handgun into a checkpoint is $4,000. The complete list of penalties is posted online.
TSA has details on how to properly travel with a firearm posted on its website. Travelers should also contact their airline as they may have additional requirements for traveling with firearms and ammunition.