TSA officers prevent two travelers from bringing loaded guns onto their flights on Sunday

Local Press Release
Monday, May 22, 2023
TSA officers stopped a Florida man with this handgun inside his carry-on bag at a Reagan National Airport security checkpoint on May 21. (TSA photo)

ARLINGTON, Va. – Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officers at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) prevented two out-of-state travelers from bringing their loaded handguns onto their flights on Sunday, May 21.

A Florida resident was stopped with his loaded .380 caliber handgun and an Arkansas woman was stopped with her .22 caliber gun that was loaded with five bullets. The incidents were not related.

The firearms were caught as the individuals entered the security checkpoint. The X-ray unit alerted on their carry-on bags and the guns removed by Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority Police officers, who confiscated the guns and cited the individuals on weapons charges. These individuals now face a stiff financial civil penalty. Civil penalties for carrying a weapons can reach a maximum of $15,000.

“The Memorial Day holiday may be a week away, but the summer holiday travel season has started,” said John Busch, TSA’s Federal Security Director at the airport. “Our officers are good at their jobs and are staying vigilant to keep all travelers safe and secure. Airports are congested, people are eager to travel and this is no time to be carrying prohibited or illegal items in your carry-on bag.

An Arkansas woman was stopped by TSA officers with this loaded handgun at a Reagan National Airport security checkpoint on May 21. (TSA photo)
An Arkansas woman was stopped by TSA officers with this loaded handgun at a Reagan National Airport security checkpoint on May 21. (TSA photo)

“Travelers who are gun owners have a significant responsibility to know where their firearms are at all times and know that they should not be in a carry-on bag,” Busch added. “I am very concerned that most people who are stopped at TSA checkpoints with a firearm ‘forgot it was in the bag.’ And so loaded and unsecured firearms--with an oblivious owner--were near all the other travelers. This presents a potentially hazardous situation. When packing for a trip, I recommend starting with an empty bag to ensure that there are no prohibited items inside. Bringing any prohibited items slows down the security screening process for everyone. Travelers need to come to the airport prepared to go through the security screening process.”

TSA has details on how to properly travel with a firearm posted on its website.

Firearms are not permitted through a security checkpoint because passengers should not have access to a firearm during a flight. This even applies to travelers with concealed carry permits or are enrolled in the TSA PreCheck® program, who will lose their TSA PreCheck privileges if they bring a gun to a checkpoint.  Individuals who bring their gun to a security checkpoint will face a federal financial civil penalty.

Last year, 6,542 firearms were caught at 262 out of 430 airport security checkpoints nationwide. Eighty-eight percent of those guns were loaded.

TSA firearms catches at airport checkpoints at Reagan National Airport, 2016 to 2023










(as of 5/21/23)

Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA)









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 gun 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.

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.

Unsure if an item should be packed in a carry-on bag, checked bag, either or neither? Download the free myTSA app, which has a handy “What can I bring?” feature that allows you to type in the item to find out if it can fly. Or ask on Twitter or Facebook Messenger at @AskTSA. Travelers may send a question by texting “Travel” to AskTSA (275-872).