ITHACA, NY – A Florida man was stopped by the Transportation Security Administration this morning with a 9 mm handgun and a magazine loaded with seven bullets, at the Ithaca Tompkins Regional Airport checkpoint. The TSA officer who was staffing the checkpoint X-ray monitor detected the handgun tucked inside the man’s backpack.
TSA officials notified the Tompkins County Sheriff’s Department, which responded to the checkpoint, confiscated the handgun and detained the man for questioning. The Sheriff’s office continues to investigate.
The man claimed that the gun belonged to one of his friends and that he did not know that he had it with him.
“Bringing a handgun and ammunition to an airport to take a flight and not knowing it is with you is both careless and dangerous, no matter what the circumstances are,” said Bart R. Johnson, TSA’s Federal Security Director for Upstate New York. “Fortunately, our dedicated officers do a great job in actively seeking prohibited items, and they prevented this handgun from getting on an aircraft. Their commitment ensured a secure flight for both passengers and crew.
“I appreciate the dedication of these fine officers and I also appreciate the prompt response and actions of the Tompkins County Sheriff’s Office,” Johnson said.
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.
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. Even travelers with concealed carry permits are not allowed to bring guns onto airplanes. In addition, TSA has the authority to access civil penalties of up to $13,000. A typical first offense for carrying a handgun into a checkpoint is $4,100. The complete list of penalties is posted online.
TSA has details on how to properly travel with a firearm posted on its website. Airlines may have additional requirements for traveling with firearms and ammunition. Travelers should contact their airline regarding firearm and ammunition carriage policies.