TSA officers at Reagan National Airport catch second gun within four days

Guns caught at the checkpoints matches total from 2019 in just seven months
Local Press Release
Monday, July 12, 2021
The TSA team at DCA caught this loaded handgun at one of the checkpoints on July 11. (TSA photo)

ARLINGTON, Va. – Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officers at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) caught a loaded handgun at one of the airport checkpoints on Sunday, July 11, bringing the total number of firearms detected at the airport this year to 14, matching the total caught in 2019. It was the second gun caught within four days.

“It’s only mid-July and already our TSA officers have prevented 14 handguns from being carried onto flights, which is what we saw in all 12 months of 2019, prior to the pandemic,” said Scott T. Johnson, TSA Federal Security Director for the airport. “When you take in to account the fact that checkpoint volume at Reagan National Airport is still below pre-pandemic levels, seeing an increase in the number of travelers who are bringing their guns to our checkpoints is an alarming trend.”

Johnson pointed out that passengers can travel with their firearms if they pack them unloaded in a hard-sided locked case and declare them with their airline to ensure the guns are transported in the belly of the plane so that nobody has access to them during the flight.

On Sunday, TSA officers caught a Georgia man with a .38 caliber handgun loaded with 10 bullets, including one in the chamber. On Thursday, July 8, the TSA officers caught a Maryland man with a .40 caliber handgun loaded with six bullets. Each man was cited by the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority Police, who confiscated the weapons. In addition, both individuals 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.

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. Then the locked case should be taken to the airline check-in counter to be declared. TSA has details on how to properly travel with a firearm posted on its website.

Firearm possession laws vary by state and locality and passengers should do their homework to make sure that they are not violating any local firearm laws. 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.