TSA firearm discoveries increase in South Carolina in 2019

Nationally, TSA set new record for guns caught at airport checkpoints in 2019
Local Press Release
Wednesday, January 15, 2020

CHARLESTON, South Carolina - Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officers at five South Carolina airports discovered a total of 63 firearms in travelers’ carry-on luggage in 2019, an 53% increase over the 41 firearms discovered at the same five airports in 2018.

In every instance, these firearms were discovered by TSA officers during the routine screening of carry-on property at airport security checkpoints. Below is a summary of firearm discoveries at South Carolina’s airports from 2017 to 2019.




Charleston International Airport (CHS)




Columbia Metropolitan Airport (CAE)




Greenville Spartanburg International Airport (GSP)




Florence Regional Airport (FLO)




Myrtle Beach International Airport (MYR)




South Carolina total:




National total:




* No firearms were discovered at Hilton Head Island Airport from 2017 – 2019.

“The increase in the number of firearm discoveries should serve as a wakeup call to travelers everywhere. There is an established protocol for flying with a firearm and it never includes bringing it to the security checkpoint,” said TSA Federal Security Director for South Carolina David McMahon. “All travelers should double-check their belongings before coming to the airport to catch a flight and make sure there is nothing dangerous or prohibited in their carry-on luggage.”

Nationwide, TSA officers found 4,432 firearms in carry-on bags at airport checkpoints, averaging about 12 firearms per day and an increase of 5% from the total of 4,239 detected in 2018. Eighty-seven percent of firearms detected at checkpoints last year were loaded.

The top five airports across the country for firearm discoveries in 2019 were: Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International with 323; Dallas/Fort Worth International with 217; Denver International with 140; Houston Intercontinental with 138 and Phoenix Sky Harbor International with 132.

Travelers face civil penalties for bringing firearms to the security checkpoint and TSA evaluates each firearm incident on a case-by-case basis. Two factors TSA considers when determining the civil penalty amount include whether the firearm was loaded and whether there was accessible ammunition.

The recommended civil penalty for a firearm starts at $2,050 and can go up to a maximum of $10,250 per violation. Even if a traveler has a concealed weapons permit, firearms are not permitted in carry-on luggage.

In addition to civil penalties, individuals who violate rules regarding traveling with firearms will have 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.

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. Any type of replica firearm is prohibited in carry-on baggage and must be transported in checked luggage.

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. TSA also recommends travelers check with their airline prior to their flight to ensure they comply with any airline-specific requirements.

Additional traveler information specifically related to the commercial air transport of firearms and ammunition can be found at http://www.tsa.gov/traveler-information/firearms-and-ammunition. More information on TSA’s civil penalties for prohibited items can be found at https://www.tsa.gov/travel/civil-enforcement

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  https://www.tsa.gov/travel/security-screening/whatcanibring/all. 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 for real-time assistance.