TSA officers stop man from bringing loaded handgun onto an airplane at Watertown International Airport

Local Press Release
Monday, August 10, 2020
TSA officers detected this loaded firearm in a traveler’s carry-on bag on Sunday. (TSA photo)

WATERTOWN, N.Y. – Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officers caught a North Carolina man with a 9 mm handgun loaded with seven bullets in his carry-on bag at the Watertown International Airport security checkpoint on Sunday, Aug. 9.  

After spotting the handgun in the checkpoint X-ray machine, TSA immediately alerted the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, which responded to the checkpoint and detained the man for questioning before they confiscated the gun and arrested him on weapons charges. The man told officials that he had no idea that he had his loaded gun with him because he thought his son was in possession of the firearm.

When an individual shows up at a checkpoint with a firearm, the checkpoint lane comes to a standstill until the police resolve the incident. Guns at checkpoints can delay travelers from getting to their gates.

“Our TSA team is focused on its security mission and they are highly skilled at detecting prohibited items brought to checkpoints—especially firearms,” said Bart R. Johnson, TSA’s Federal Security Director for Upstate New York. “If you own a firearm, you need to know where it is at all times. In this case, the gun owner did not know where it was and it resulted in a security event that caused all screening operations to stop.”  

TSA reserves the right to issue a civil penalty to travelers who have guns with them at a checkpoint. This applies to travelers with or without concealed gun carry permits because even though an individual may have a concealed carry permit, it does not allow for a firearm to be carried onto an airplane. The complete list of civil penalties is posted online.

Nationwide last year, 4,432 firearms were discovered in carry-on bags at checkpoints across the country, averaging about 12.1 firearms per day, approximately a 5% increase nationally in firearm discoveries from the total of 4,239 detected in 2018. Eighty-seven percent of firearms detected at checkpoints last year were loaded.

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.