TSA team at Reagan National Airport caught four handguns at airport checkpoints in May

Local Press Release
Tuesday, June 1, 2021
TSA officers caught a man with this handgun at a DCA checkpoint on May 27. (TSA photo)

ARLINGTON, Va. – Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officers at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) prevented four individuals with handguns from getting through airport security checkpoints during May. All four guns were caught within a 10-day span.

“Even during this pandemic our officers remain vigilant about preventing weapons that pose a security threat from getting onto flights,” said Scott T. Johnson, TSA Federal Security Director for the airport. “It should be obvious that guns are not allowed to be carried onto a flight. That regulation has been in effect long before TSA was ever established.

“We want people to be prepared for the checkpoint experience before they leave for the airport. Before you head to the airport, you should know the contents of your carry-on and checked baggage,” Johnson added. “If you’re not sure if an item is permitted to be carried onto an airplane, there are many ways to find out via TSA’s web site, www.tsa.gov, via TSA’s free downloadable “myTSA” app, through TSA’s Twitter account, @AskTSA, or via Facebook Messenger.”

The individuals who were caught with their guns were each cited by the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority Police. In addition, they each face a stiff federal financial civil penalty for bringing a gun to an airport security checkpoint.

Bringing a gun to an airport checkpoint carries a federal civil penalty because 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. Additionally, if a traveler with a gun is a member of TSA PreCheck®, that individual will lose their TSA PreCheck privileges.

TSA officers caught a man with this loaded handgun on May 30 at a DCA checkpoint. (TSA photo).
TSA officers caught a man with this loaded handgun on May 30 at a DCA checkpoint. (TSA photo).

Guns caught at DCA during May included the following:

  • A Florida man with a 9mm handgun loaded with 14 bullets, including one in the chamber on May 30;
  •  An Alabama man with an unloaded 9mm handgun along with two gun magazines containing 19 bullets on May 27;
  • A Maryland man with a 9 mm handgun loaded with nine bullets along with three gun magazines with 21 additional bullets on May 22; and
  • A Maryland woman with a .38 caliber handgun loaded with five bullets on May 21.

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 officers at DCA stopped a woman with this loaded handgun at one of the airport checkpoints on May 21. (TSA photo)
TSA officers at DCA stopped a woman with this loaded handgun at one of the airport checkpoints on May 21. (TSA photo)

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.

Firearms Caught at the Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport checkpoints, 2017 to 2021







Guns caught






*Significantly fewer passengers than previous year 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.