TSA, law enforcement officials express alarm about frequency of guns carried to Pittsburgh International Airport security checkpoints

TSA stresses the proper way to travel with a firearm
Local Press Release
Wednesday, October 6, 2021
Four of the 27 guns caught by TSA at the security checkpoint at Pittsburgh International Airport so far this year. (TSA photos)

PITTSBURGH, Pa. --Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and local law enforcement officials are highly concerned about the frequency that they are seeing travelers carry their handguns to security checkpoints at Pittsburgh International Airport. Most of those guns are found to be loaded.

“What we are seeing is a gun epidemic—one that is entirely and easily preventable,” says Karen Keys-Turner, TSA’s Federal Security Director for the airport. “Guns are never allowed to pass through a security checkpoint to be carried onto a flight. However, passengers can transport their guns for their trips if they pack them properly and declare them to the airline.”

The TSA team at Pittsburgh International Airport has detected 27 firearms at the security checkpoint so far this year with three months still remaining in 2021. In 2020, TSA officers discovered 21 firearms at the security checkpoints and in 2019 they detected 35 firearms.

Properly packed gun photo
A properly packed firearm sits in a locked hard-sided case. This case must then be taken to the check-in counter for the airline to transport it in the belly of the plane. (TSA photo)

When an individual shows up at a checkpoint with a firearm, the checkpoint lane comes to a standstill until the police resolve the incident. Thus, guns at checkpoints can delay travelers from getting to their gates.

“After TSA officers find guns, we respond and conduct an investigation,” says Kenneth Ruckel, Inspector and Division Commander of the Allegheny County Police Department at the airport. “We are often told by the passenger, ‘I didn’t know it was in my bag’ or ‘I forgot it was in there.’  We will be requesting that the county sheriff’s office revoke concealed carry permits on the basis of irresponsible gun ownership.”

“There is no excuse for a traveler who tries to carry a gun onto their flight,” says Keys-Turner. “The vast majority of violators claim that they forgot that they had their loaded guns with them. Responsible gun owners know where their guns are at all times and they know the proper way to transport a handgun to their destination. If you bring a gun to the checkpoint, you will be the recipient of a hefty fine from TSA in addition to being subject to possible criminal charges.”

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, placed in a hard-sided locked case, and packed separately from ammunition. Then the locked case must 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.

TSA reserves the right to issue a $3,000 to $13,910 civil penalty to travelers who bring weapons with them to a checkpoint. Civil penalties for bringing a handgun into a checkpoint can stretch into thousands of dollars, depending on mitigating or aggravating 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.