TSA catches local man with loaded handgun at Des Moines International Airport

Local Press Release
Monday, April 12, 2021
This loaded handgun was detected by TSA officers in a man’s carry-on bag on April 11, at Des Moines International Airport. (TSA photo)

DES MOINES, Iowa –Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officers prevented a Polk County, Iowa, resident from bringing his .45 caliber handgun loaded with five bullets onto a flight at Des Moines International Airport on Sunday, April 11.

TSA officials spotted the handgun in the man’s carry-on bag and immediately alerted the Des Moines Police, who responded to the checkpoint, and confiscated the firearm from the traveler before citing him on a local weapons charge. 

 “Let me say it very simply. Do not bring your gun to an airport security checkpoint,” said John Bright, TSA’s Federal Security Director for Iowa. “Even if you have a concealed carry permit, you are not permitted to carry it onto an airplane. If you want to travel with it, you must pack it properly so that it can be transported as checked baggage. If you do bring your gun to our checkpoint, you will face a stiff federal civil penalty that could cost you thousands of dollars.”

Travelers are not permitted to carry their guns onto airplanes, however, passengers are permitted to transport their firearms as checked baggage if they are properly packed and declared at their airline ticket counter to be transported in the belly of the plane. 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. Civil penalties for bringing a handgun into a checkpoint can stretch into thousands of dollars, depending on 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.

Firearms caught by TSA officers at the Des Moines International checkpoint, 2015 to 2021









Guns at DSM 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.