Dubuque County man caught with loaded handgun at Eastern Iowa Airport checkpoint

Local Press Release
Wednesday, March 3, 2021
TSA officers at Eastern Iowa Airport stopped a man with this loaded handgun at the security checkpoint on March 2. (TSA photo)

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – A Dubuque County, Iowa, man was stopped by Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officers at the Eastern Iowa Airport on Tuesday, March 2, when they detected a .380 caliber handgun loaded with six bullets in his backpack.

TSA officials notified the Eastern Iowa Public Safety Department, who responded to the checkpoint and briefly detained the man, a resident of Peosta, Iowa, for questioning before citing him on a weapons charge.

It marked the first gun caught by TSA officers at the airport this year.

“This individual assumed incorrectly that since he had a firearm permit that he was allowed to carry it onto an airplane, but that is certainly not allowed,” said John Bright, TSA’s Federal Security Director for Iowa. “No guns are permitted to be carried onto planes. Period. We’re certainly happy to transport it if it is properly packed and declared to the airline for transport in the belly of the aircraft where nobody has access to it during the flight.”

Passengers are permitted to travel with firearms in checked baggage if they are properly packaged and declared at their airline ticket counter to be transported in the belly of the plane. Guns are absolutely not permitted to be carried onto planes. Checked firearms must be unloaded, packed in a hard-sided case, locked, and packed separately from ammunition. TSA has details on how to properly travel with a firearm posted on its website. Firearm possession laws vary by state and locality and travelers should check into firearm laws before they decide to travel with their guns. Travelers should also contact their airline as they may have additional requirements for traveling with firearms and ammunition.

 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.

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 Eastern Iowa Airport checkpoint 2016 to 2021








(As of 3-2-21)

Guns caught

at checkpoint







*Significantly fewer travelers due to the pandemic.

Nationwide, TSA officers detected 3,257 firearms on passengers or their carry-on bags at checkpoints last year, although the total number of passengers screened at airport checkpoints across the country fell by 500 million compared to 2019 due to the pandemic. The result was that twice as many firearms per million passengers screened were detected at checkpoints in 2020 compared to 2019. In 2020, TSA caught approximately 10 firearms per million passengers as compared to about five firearms per million passengers in 2019.  Of the guns caught by TSA in 2020, about 83 percent were loaded.