TSA at Pittsburgh reminds travelers not to bring guns to the security checkpoint

Local Press Release
Monday, April 26, 2021

PITTSBURGH, Pa.--Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officers working at Pittsburgh International Airport have recently seen an increase in the number of guns brought by travelers in their carry-on luggage. Due to this increase, TSA wants to remind travelers of the proper and legal way to transport firearms on their flights.

TSA officers at Pittsburgh International Airport have already discovered 11 guns in carry-on luggage during the first four months of the year, which is more than half of the 21 caught during all 12 months of 2020. Each of the firearms caught have been discovered during the routine screening of carry-on items at the airport checkpoint.

Whenever a TSA officer spots the image of a handgun on the x-ray monitor, TSA immediately alerts the Allegheny County Police, which responds to the security checkpoint and resolves the matter. In addition to potential criminal citations, travelers face stiff federal civil penalties for bringing guns to the security checkpoint. TSA evaluates each gun incident on a case-by-case basis.

“The most common excuse we hear is that someone claims that they forgot that they had their loaded gun with them,” says Karen Keys-Turner, TSA Federal Security Director for Pittsburgh International Airport. “If you own a firearm, you should know where it is at all times. Even if a traveler has a concealed weapons permit, they are not allowed to board an airplane with the gun in carry-on luggage. The idea is that nobody should have access to a gun during a flight. However, you can transport it with checked baggage if you do so properly.”

TSA Firearms Caught at the Pittsburgh International Airport checkpoint, 2017 to 2021







Guns caught






*Significantly fewer passengers than previous years due to the pandemic.

Guns can be transported on a flight if they are unloaded, packed in a locked, hard-sided case and declared to the airline. The airline will be sure that the gun travels with checked baggage in the belly of the plane, never in the cabin of the plane. Additionally, replica firearms also are prohibited in carry-on baggage and also 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, I encourage passengers to do some homework and check gun laws and regulations at their destination to ensure they are in compliance with local and state laws,” Keys-Turner advises. TSA also recommends travelers check with their airline prior to their flight to ensure they comply with any airline-specific requirements for transporting firearms.

Civil penalties for bringing a handgun into a checkpoint can stretch into thousands of dollars, depending on mitigating circumstances. Among the factors TSA considers when determining the civil penalty amount include whether the firearm was loaded and whether there was accessible ammunition. Citations for loaded guns range from $3,000 to $10,000 and from $1,500 to $2,475 for unloaded guns. Citations for replica guns, BB guns and air guns range from $360 to $2,090. These civil penalties apply 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.

Individuals who violate rules regarding traveling with guns will have Trusted Traveler status and TSA PreCheck® expedited screening benefits revoked for a period of time.  

TSA has additional traveler information specifically related to the transportation of firearms and ammunition posted on its website. A full summary of TSA’s civil penalties for prohibited items is also available online.

TSA reminds passengers to always know 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, either or neither.

Travelers can use the “Can I Bring?” feature on the TSA website or on the free downloadable myTSA app. 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. and 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekends.

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.