ARLINGTON, Va. – Transportation Security Administration officers at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) stopped two travelers carrying handguns at checkpoints within a three-day span.
TSA officers stopped a woman with a .380 caliber handgun loaded with seven bullets, including one in the chamber, yesterday, November 12. The woman, a resident of Indiana, had the gun in her purse and told officials that she forgot she was traveling with her loaded gun. TSA officers also stopped a Fairfax County, Virginia, man from bringing his unloaded .22 caliber handgun through a checkpoint on Friday, November 9.
They marked the 13th and 14th handguns caught so far this year at DCA, surpassing the number of guns caught at the airport last year when TSA officers caught 13 guns at the airport’s checkpoints.
In each instance, TSA officers immediately contacted the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) Police, and when they arrived at the checkpoint, they confiscated the firearms and detained the travelers for questioning prior to citing them on weapons charges.
When an individual brings a firearm to a checkpoint, it closes the checkpoint lane until the situation can be resolved, thus forcing the other travelers to shift into another lane and delaying their passage through the checkpoint.
Approximately one in 200,000 travelers brought guns to checkpoints nationwide in 2017 (the last time such data was available) and 84 percent of them were loaded. Of the guns caught at checkpoints in 2017, 23 percent were carried by women.
Individuals who bring firearms to the checkpoint are subject to possible criminal charges from law enforcement. This includes travelers with gun permits. A permit to carry a firearm does not allow for it to be brought onto an aircraft.
TSA has the authority to assess civil penalties of up to $13,000 for travelers who bring weapons to airports. A typical first offense for carrying a handgun into a checkpoint is $3,900. The complete list of penalties is posted online.
Passengers are permitted to travel with firearms in checked baggage if they are properly packaged and declared. Firearms must be unloaded, packed in a hard-sided case, locked, and packed separately from ammunition. Firearm possession laws vary by state and locality.
TSA’s website has details on how to properly travel with a firearm. Airlines may have additional requirements for traveling with firearms and ammunition. Travelers should also contact their airline regarding firearm and ammunition carriage policies.