TSA catches Lehigh County man with loaded handgun at Philadelphia International Airport

Local Press Release
Friday, November 6, 2020
TSA officers detected this handgun at a Philadelphia International Airport checkpoint on Nov. 5. (TSA photo)

PHILADELPHIA – Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officers detected a .25 caliber handgun loaded with seven bullets at a security checkpoint at Philadelphia International Airport on Thursday, Nov. 5. It marked the 22nd gun that TSA officers have caught at the airport, two more than were caught during 2019. This is in spite of the fact that there has been a markedly lower passenger volume due to the pandemic.

TSA officers alerted the Philadelphia Police, who arrived at the checkpoint, confiscated the gun and cited the man, a resident of Fogelsville in Lehigh County, Pennsylvania, on weapons charges.

“Let’s be perfectly clear,” said Gerardo Spero, TSA’s Federal Security Director for Philadelphia International Airport. “Under no circumstances may travelers carry their firearms onto an airplane in a carry-on bag and this includes anyone with a concealed carry permit. If you want to travel with your gun, it needs to be unloaded, locked in a hard-sided case and declared with your airline. The airline will ensure that the firearm is transported in the belly of the aircraft with the other checked baggage so that nobody has access to it during the flight.

“Traveler volume at Philadelphia since the pandemic hit has ranged anywhere from 80 to 60 percent lower than last year, and yet with two months remaining in the year, TSA officers at the airport have already exceeded the number of guns caught during all 12 months of 2019 when passenger volume was significantly higher,” Spero said. “This individual now faces a stiff Federal financial civil penalty.”

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.

Guns caught by TSA at the Philadelphia International Airport checkpoints 2016 to 2020







(As of 11-5-20)

Guns caught






TSA reserves the right to issue a civil penalty to travelers who have guns with them at a checkpoint. A typical first offense for carrying a loaded handgun into a checkpoint is $4,100 and can go as high as $13,669 depending on any mitigating circumstances. 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. If a traveler with a gun is a member of TSA PreCheck™, that individual will lose their TSA PreCheck™ privileges.

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.

Passengers are permitted to travel with firearms in checked baggage if they are properly packaged and declared at their airline ticket counter. Firearms must be unloaded, packed in a hard-sided case, locked, and packed separately from ammunition. Firearm possession laws vary by state and locality.

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.