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TSA detected an increase in firearms at Virginia airports in 2018

Virginia trends as does the rest of the country as more people brought guns to airports

Local Press Release
Thursday, February 7, 2019

ARLINGTON, Va. – Transportation Security Administration officers stopped 82 guns at the Virginia airport checkpoints in 2018, an increase from the 71 caught in 2017. The increase was mainly attributable to the more than doubling of the number of firearms stopped at Norfolk International Airport. Virginia’s increase mirrored the national trend of an uptick in the number of firearms detected at airport checkpoints nationwide.

In total, 4,239 firearms were discovered in carry-on bags at checkpoints across the country last year, averaging about 11.6 firearms per day, approximately a 7 percent increase nationally in firearm discoveries from the total of 3,957 detected in 2017. Eighty-six percent of firearms detected at checkpoints last year were loaded and nearly 34 percent had a bullet in the chamber.

Travelers who bring firearms to the checkpoint are subject to criminal charges from law enforcement and civil penalties from TSA. Even if a traveler has a concealed weapon permit, firearms are not permitted to be carried onto an airplane. However, travelers with proper firearm permits can travel legally with their firearms in their checked bags if they follow a few simple guidelines.

Airport 2016 2017 2018
Norfolk International Airport 14 10 21
Washington Dulles International Airport 24 19 17
Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport 19 13 16
Richmond International Airport 10 18 14
Roanoke-Blacksburg Regional Airport 6 3 6
Charlottesville-Albemarle Regional Airport 0 4 4
Lynchburg Regional Airport 3 2 2
Newport News-Williamsburg Regional Airport 3 2 2
Total 79 71 82

The top five airports where TSA officers detected guns at checkpoints in 2018 were: Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International with 298; Dallas/Fort Worth International with 219; Phoenix Sky Harbor International with 129; Denver International with 126 and Orlando International at 123.

Firearm possession laws vary by state and locality. TSA advises travelers to familiarize themselves with state and local firearm laws for each point of travel prior to departure to ensure that they have the proper gun permits for the states that they are traveling to and from. Airlines may have additional requirements for traveling with firearms and ammunition so travelers should also contact the airline regarding firearm and ammunition carriage policies prior to arriving at the airport.

Passengers are permitted to travel with firearms in checked baggage if they are unloaded, packed in a hard-side case, locked, and packed separately from ammunition. Ammunition must be in its original box and can be packed inside the hard-side case, next to the firearm. Even if the box of ammunition is not full, the bullets must be in their original case. Then the case with the firearm should be brought to the airline check-in counter and the airline representative informed that the passenger wants to travel with the gun. Firearms are transported inside checked baggage and are placed in the belly of the aircraft. TSA’s website has details on how to properly travel with a firearm.

As a reminder, individuals who bring weapons to a checkpoint are subject to federal civil penalties of up to $13,000. A typical first offense for carrying a handgun into a checkpoint is $3,900. The complete list of penalties is posted online.

National Statistics 2008 to 2018

Year Nationwide
2018 4,239
2017 3,957
2016 3,391
2015 2,653
2014 2,212
2013 1,813
2012 1,556
2011 1,320
2010 1,123
2009 976
2008 926


TSA officers continued their overall vigilance in protecting our nation’s transportation systems in 2018, including catching unusual prohibited items at the checkpoints. For more specific information on unusual items, visit the TSA Blog for photos and graphics.

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