TSA officers prevent Virginia man from bringing loaded gun onto flight at Reagan National Airport

32nd gun caught this year
Local Press Release
Monday, November 20, 2023
This loaded handgun was packed inside a man’s backpack and was detected by TSA officers at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport on Nov. 19. (TSA photo)

ARLINGTON, Va. – A Lynchburg, Va., man was stopped with a loaded handgun by Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officers at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport on Sunday, Nov. 19.   The 9mm gun was loaded with 10 bullets and was packed in a knapsack alongside a gun magazine loaded with additional ammunition.

It was the 32nd gun that TSA officers at the airport have detected at one of the checkpoints so far this year, which is the most guns caught in a single year and follows a national trend in seeing a spike in the number of travelers who are bringing guns to airport checkpoints across the country.

The gun was caught as the man entered the security checkpoint. The X-ray unit alerted the TSA to take a closer look inside the carry-on bag, The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority Police confiscated the gun and cited the man on a weapons charge. The man told officials that he keeps his firearm in his work backpack and he planned to work during his trip and forgot that he had it with him.

Guns are not permitted through the security checkpoint and now the man faces a stiff financial civil penalty from TSA. The penalty for carrying weapons can reach a maximum of $15,000.

“There is no excuse for bringing a gun to the checkpoint,” said John Busch, TSA’s Federal Security Director for the airport. “Incidents such as this are dangerous and disrupt our screening operations for all travelers. Let me be clear--under no circumstances are travelers permitted to carry a firearm through a security checkpoint. My advice is that prior to taking a trip, empty your carry-on bag completely and then start to pack it so that you know with certainty that there are no illegal or prohibited items inside.”

Passengers are only permitted to travel with firearms in checked baggage. Firearms must be unloaded then packed in a hard-sided locked case. 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.

TSA firearms caught at TSA checkpoints at Reagan National Airport, 2018 to 2023







2023 (As of 11/19/23)

Guns caught at the Reagan National Airport checkpoints







Firearm possession laws vary by state and locality and gun owners have a duty to ensure they are not violating any local firearm laws. Additionally, contacting the respective airline could reveal any additional requirements for traveling with firearms and ammunition.

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 a concealed carry permit does not allow 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.

Last year, 6,542 firearms were caught at airport security checkpoints nationwide. So far this year nearly 6,000 handguns have been stopped at security checkpoints by TSA officers across the country, which is on track to set a new annual record.

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).