TSA catches Montana woman with loaded handgun at Des Moines International Airport

Local Press Release
Monday, December 14, 2020
This loaded handgun was detected by TSA officers in a woman’s carry-on bag on Dec. 9, at Des Moines International Airport. (TSA photo.)

DES MOINES, Iowa –Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officers caught a Montana resident with a handgun loaded with 10 bullets in her carry-on bag at Des Moines International Airport on Wednesday, Dec. 9.

TSA officials immediately alerted the Des Moines Police, who responded to the checkpoint, and confiscated the firearm from the traveler before citing her on a weapons charge.

“It’s disappointing to see travelers carrying their guns to the checkpoint with the intent of carrying them onto their flight,” said John Bright, TSA’s Federal Security Director for Iowa. “TSA has been in existence for 19 years, but the law prohibiting guns to be carried onto airplanes has been in place for decades before TSA was established, so this is nothing new. If you want to travel with your firearm, make sure it is unloaded, placed in a locked hard-sided case and declared to your airline so it will be transported in the belly of the plane for the flight.”

TSA reserves the right to issue a civil penalty to travelers who have guns and gun parts 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.

Guns caught by TSA at the Des Moines International Airport checkpoint 2016 to 2020







(As of 12-13-20)

Guns caught

At checkpoint






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.