TSA officers catch four guns in two days at Philadelphia International Airport checkpoints

Local Press Release
Monday, May 10, 2021
TSA officers caught this handgun at one of the airport security checkpoints on May 7. It was detected inside a carry-on bag of a Douglassville, Pennsylvania, man. (TSA photo)

PHILADELPHIA—Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officers prevented four travelers from carrying guns onto their flights in a two-day span at Philadelphia International Airport checkpoints. Two men were stopped on Friday, May 7, and two more on Saturday, May 8, when the TSA officers detected the guns inside carry-on bags at the checkpoints. The incidents were not related.

“There is no excuse for carrying a gun to an airport security checkpoint,” said Gerardo Spero, TSA’s Federal Security Director for the airport. “This is not a new regulation. In fact, the prohibition of carrying guns onto airplanes was in place long before TSA even existed. The majority of individuals who we catch with a gun claim that they forgot that they had their gun with them. If you own a firearm, you should know where it is at all times. Guns inside carry-on bags are accidents waiting to happen.”

On Friday, a Duncannon, Pennsylvania, resident was caught with a .45 caliber handgun and a Douglassville, Pennsylvania man was stopped with a unloaded .380 caliber handgun along with a gun magazine that was loaded with six bullets. Police confiscated both guns and cited each individual.

PHL gun catch
TSA officers caught this handgun at one of the airport security checkpoints on May 8. It was detected inside a carry-on bag of a Dalmatia, Pennsylvania, woman. (TSA photo)

The very next day, on Saturday, a Dalmatia, Pennsylvania, woman was stopped with an loaded .38 caliber revolver (known as a “38 special”), and was cited by Philadelphia Police. A Woodbine, New Jersey, man was caught with a .22 caliber handgun and was arrested by the police. In each instance, police confiscated the weapons.

In addition to the police actions, each man also faces a stiff federal financial civil penalty for carrying a loaded gun to an airport checkpoint.  

Passengers are permitted to travel with firearms in checked baggage if they are properly packaged and declared at their airline ticket counter. Firearms must be unloaded, packed in a hard-sided case, locked, and packed separately from ammunition. Firearm possession laws vary by state and locality. 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.

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.

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 Firearms Caught at Philadelphia International Airport checkpoints, 2017 to 2021







Guns caught






*Significantly fewer passengers than previous years 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.