PHILADELPHIA - A Chester County, Pennsylvania, man was stopped by Transportation Security Administration officers at Philadelphia International Airport (PHL) yesterday, May 22, when they detected a handgun in the man’s backpack.
The man, a resident of West Chester, Pennsylvania, was stopped at the checkpoint with the .380 caliber handgun, which was loaded with six bullets. He told TSA officials that he forgot that he had his loaded gun with him.
TSA contacted the Philadelphia Police Department, which responded to the checkpoint, confiscated the firearm and detained the man for questioning before citing him on weapons violations. It marked the sixth gun caught by TSA officers at one of the airport checkpoints so far this calendar year.
Guns caught in 2018
Guns caught in 2019 (As of May 22, 2019)
When an individual shows up at a checkpoint with a firearm, the checkpoint lane comes to a standstill until the police resolve the incident. Guns at checkpoints can delay travelers from getting to their gates.
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.
Nationwide last year, 4,239 firearms were discovered in carry-on bags at checkpoints across the country, averaging about 11.6 firearms per day, approximately a 7% 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% had a bullet in the chamber.
As a reminder, individuals who bring firearms to the checkpoint are subject to possible criminal charges from law enforcement. Even travelers with concealed firearm permits are not allowed to bring guns onto airplanes in their carry-on bags. If an individual is a TSA Pre✓® member, that person could even lose TSA Pre✓® status. In addition, TSA has the authority to assess civil penalties of up to $13,333 for weapons violations. A typical first offense for carrying a handgun into a checkpoint is $3,900. The complete list of penalties is posted online.
TSA has details on how to properly travel with a firearm posted on its website. Travelers should also contact their airline as they may have additional requirements for traveling with firearms and ammunition.