CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officers at North Carolina airports discovered a total of 105 firearms in travelers’ carry-on luggage in 2020, despite a dramatic reduction in the number of travelers departing these airports due to the coronavirus global pandemic. Each of the firearms were discovered by TSA officers during the routine screening of carry-on property at airport security checkpoints.
While all airports in North Carolina had lower firearm totals overall, the rate of firearms increased due to the COVID-19 pandemic decreasing passenger throughputs across the state.
Here is a breakdown of TSA firearm discoveries for the past three years at North Carolina airports:
Charlotte Douglas Int'l (CLT)
Raleigh-Durham Int'l (RDU)
Piedmont Triad Int’l (GSO)
Asheville Regional (AVL)
Wilmington Int'l (ILM)
Fayetteville Regional (FAY)
Albert J. Ellis Airport (OAJ)
Concord-Padgett Regional (JQF)
Coastal Carolina Regional (EWN)
Pitt-Greenville Airport (PGV)
North Carolina total:
In 2020, TSA screened approximately 324 million travelers at airports nationwide. That figure represents just 39 percent of approximately 824 million screened in 2019. Despite decreased passenger loads as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, TSA officers across the country discovered firearms in carry-on luggage at a rate twice what it was in 2019 and the highest rate since the agency’s inception. Last year, TSA detected 10.2 firearms per million passengers screened as compared to five firearms per million passengers screened in 2019.
Statewide in 2020, TSA screened approximately 8.58 million departing travelers at North Carolina airports, about 41 percent of the total number screened in 2019.
Nationwide, a firearm was detected for every 99,583 passengers screened. In North Carolina, the rate was one firearm discovered per every 81,714 passengers screened.
In addition to potential criminal citations, travelers face civil penalties for bringing firearms to the security checkpoint and TSA evaluates each firearm incident on a case-by-case basis. Among the factors TSA considers when determining the civil penalty amount includes 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 PreCheckTM 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. 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.
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 website or on the TSA mobile app, myTSA. 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 and get real-time assistance weekdays from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. EST and 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. EST weekends.