BALTIMORE – The number of travelers showing up at Baltimore Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI) with firearms is trending upward and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and Maryland Transportation Authority Police want to remind travelers that there is a right way and a wrong way to travel with a firearm on an airplane. The wrong way is to bring a firearm to a checkpoint. The right way is to declare the firearm with your airline.
Passengers are responsible for the contents of bags they bring to the security checkpoint and the best advice for passengers is to look through bags thoroughly before coming to the airport to make sure there are no illegal or prohibited items.
Weapons, including firearms, firearm parts and ammunition, are not permitted in carry-on bags, but can be transported in checked bags if they are unloaded, properly packed and declared to the airline. Passengers who bring firearms to the checkpoint are subject to possible criminal charges from law enforcement and civil penalties from TSA.
In total, 3,391 firearms were discovered in carry-on bags at checkpoints across the country, averaging approximately nine firearms per day, about a 28 percent increase in firearm discoveries from the total of 2,653 in 2015. 83 percent of the guns caught in 2016 were loaded. At BWI TSA officers detected 24 firearms in 2016, up significantly from the 16 detected in 2015, a 62 percent increase.
TSA Firearm Caught at BWI
Number of Firearms Caught in 2013
Number of Firearms Caught in 2014
Number of Firearms Caught in 2015
Number of Firearms Caught in 2016
Number of Firearms to date in 2017
Baltimore Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport
The top five airports where TSA officers detected guns at checkpoints in 2016 were Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport with 198, Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport with 192, George Bush Intercontinental Airport with 128, Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport with 101 and Denver International Airport with 98. These same airports were in the top five for guns at checkpoints in 2014 and 2015.
The proper way to pack a firearm is unloaded, packed in a hard-side case and locked. Ammunition cannot be loose or in a zip-top bag. Ammunition must be in its original container/box, even if the box is partially full, and the ammunition should be placed inside the hard-side case next to the unloaded firearm. It is important to remember that firearm possession laws vary by state and locality and so travelers should familiarize themselves with state and local firearm laws for each point of travel prior to departure.
Firearm owners also are reminded to check their pockets, knapsacks and other carry-on items for a stray bullet that may be loose in a coat pocket or knapsack compartment as even single bullets are prohibited past the checkpoint and can slow down the screening process.
TSA has details on how to properly travel with a firearm posted on TSA.gov. Airlines may have additional requirements for traveling with firearms and ammunition. Travelers should also contact the airline regarding firearm and ammunition policies.
TSA screens approximately two million passengers and their luggage every day for prohibited items, including weapons and explosives. To do this, TSA uses imaging technology to safely screen passengers for any items which may be concealed under clothing, while X-ray units screen all carry-on baggage.