TSA warns about frequency of guns carried in San Antonio and South Texas airport security checkpoints

Thursday, April 7, 2022

SAN ANTONIO, Tx. --Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officials are concerned about the frequency that they are seeing travelers carry handguns to security checkpoints at airports in San Antonio International Airport (SAT) and airports in South Texas – Valley International Airport (HRL), McAllen International Airport (MFE), Laredo International Airport (LRD), Corpus Christi International Airport (CRP), Brownsville South Padre Island International Airport (BRO) and Victoria Regional Airport (VCT). Most of those guns are found to be loaded.

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

“The most common excuse we hear is that someone forgot that they had their gun with them,” said Jes Presas, TSA’s Federal Security Director for SAT. “That’s no excuse. If you own a firearm, you need to know where it is at all times. It’s part of being a responsible gun owner.”

The TSA teams at San Antonio and South Texas airports detected a combined 86 guns at the security checkpoints in 2021. TSA officers at SAT and South Texas airports have stopped 36 guns, so far in 2022.  

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.

“While the number of firearms found at SAT has decreased over the last few years. It is still imperative that we remind travelers to take every precaution before arriving at the airport. Safety is our number one priority said Jesus H. Saenz, Jr., Director of Airports, San Antonio Airport System.

TSA firearms catches at San Antonio and South Texas area airport checkpoints 2017 to 2022

Year

2018

2019

2020

2021

2022

As of 3/31/22

San Antonio International Airport (SAT)

70

60

44

65

22

Valley International Airport (HRL)

6

2

2

6

4

Corpus Christi International Airport (CRP)

9

13

2

10

2

McAllen International Airport (MFE)

5

3

5

2

6

Brownsville/South Padre Island International Airport (BRO)

1

2

1

1

1

Laredo International Airport (LRD)

1

1

1

2

1

Victoria Regional Airport (VCT)

0

0

0

0

0

Total

92

 81

55

86

36

SAT gun catch photo
TSA officers at SAT Airport prevented a traveler from bringing this loaded handgun onto a flight

TSA reserves the right to issue a 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.

“The penalties are stiff for carrying a gun to a checkpoint,” Presas said. “You could face criminal penalties on top of federal civil citations that can be extremely costly. My advice is to not make the mistake of bringing your gun to the checkpoint in the first place. We’re happy to help transport your firearm. All we ask is that you pack it safely and properly for your flight.”

box of ammo photo

Travelers are responsible for the contents of bags and TSA recommends that travelers go through their carry-on and checked bags before they head to the airport to ensure that they have no illegal or prohibited items inside. Carrying a gun to an airport checkpoint carries a stiff federal civil penalty that can run into the thousands of dollars. Even if someone has a concealed carry permit, it does not allow for a firearm to be carried onto an airplane.

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.

Nationwide, TSA officers detected 5,972 guns at airport security checkpoints last year. Eighty-six percent of those guns were loaded.  

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