TSA, PAPD alarmed about frequency of ammunition, guns carried to Newark Liberty International Airport security checkpoints

Officials stress the proper way to transport firearms and ammunition for a flight
Local Press Release
Wednesday, June 29, 2022
Two of the guns stopped by TSA officers at Newark Liberty International Airport in 2022. Each resulted in an arrest by PAPD. (TSA photos)

NEWARK --Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and Port Authority Police (PAPD) officials are highly concerned about the frequency that they are seeing travelers carry ammunition and handguns to security checkpoints at Newark Liberty International Airport. Most of those guns are found to be loaded.

“There appears to be an epidemic of ammunition that is cropping up at our security checkpoints—one that is easily preventable,” said Thomas Carter, TSA’s Federal Security Director for New Jersey. “Guns, ammunition and security checkpoints don’t mix. Guns and ammunition are never allowed to pass through a security checkpoint to be carried onto a flight, even if a traveler has a concealed carry permit. However, passengers can transport their guns and ammunition for their trips if they pack them properly in checked baggage and declare them to the airline.”

The TSA team at Newark Liberty International Airport detected 12 firearms at the security checkpoints in 2021 and so far this year they have detected nine guns.

“We work side-by-side and in strong partnership with the Port Authority Police on incidents involving guns at the airport,” Carter said.    

“The Port Authority continues to work in partnership with our TSA colleagues to ensure a safe and secure travel experience for the tens of millions of passengers who pass through our airports each year,” said Port Authority Chief Security Officer John Bilich. “Make no mistake. Those who break the law will be held accountable. We thank the TSA for its vigilance in helping to detect and remove firearms at airport checkpoints.”

Guns caught at TSA security checkpoints at Newark International Airport  








(As of 6/28/22)

Guns caught at Newark Liberty International Airport checkpoints







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

“The most common excuses we hear from travelers is that ‘I didn’t know it was in my bag’ or ‘I forgot it was in there.’ But there is no excuse for trying to bring a handgun on a flight,” Carter said. “Responsible gun owners know where their guns are at all times.”   

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.

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

Ammunition is prohibited in carry-on baggage, but may be transported in checked baggage. Firearm magazines and ammunition clips, whether loaded or empty, must be securely boxed or included within a hard-sided case containing an unloaded firearm.  

Small arms ammunition (up to .75 caliber and shotgun shells of any gauge) must be packaged in a fiber (such as cardboard), wood, plastic, or metal box specifically designed to carry ammunition and declared to your airline. Ammunition may be transported in the same hard-sided, locked case as a firearm if it has been packed as described above. Travelers cannot use firearm magazines or clips for packing ammunition unless they completely enclose the ammunition. Travelers should check with their airline for quantity limits for ammunition.

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.

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 in 2021. Eighty-six percent of those guns were loaded.