TSA officers prevent local woman from bringing loaded gun onto flight at Reagan National Airport on Christmas Eve

Local Press Release
Tuesday, December 26, 2023
This loaded handgun was caught in a carry-on bag belonging to a Bethesda, Md., woman on Dec. 24th. (TSA photo)

ARLINGTON, Va. – Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officers at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport stopped a Bethesda, Md., woman from carrying her handgun onto a flight on Christmas Eve, Dec. 24.

The 9mm gun was loaded with six bullets when the TSA officers detected the weapon among the woman’s carry-on items.

It marked the 39th gun that TSA officers at the airport have detected at 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 previous high number of firearms stopped at the airport in a single year was 30, which took place in 2021.

The gun was detected as the woman 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 individual on a weapons charge.  

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

“Bringing a gun to an airport security checkpoint was no way to enter the holiday,” said John Busch, TSA’s Federal Security Director for the airport. “There’s naughty and there’s nice at this time of year and the nice way to transport your firearm is to make sure it is unloaded, locked in a hard-sided case and declared at your airline check-in counter. The naughty way is to bring it to a checkpoint. This traveler was cited by the police and will likely receive a federal civil penalty of thousands of dollars. Responsible gun owners know where their guns are at all times and they know not to bring them to an airport checkpoint.”

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








(As of 12/25/23)

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 more than 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).