PHILADELPHIA – United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania Jennifer Arbittier Williams, the United States Attorneys for the Middle and Western Districts of Pennsylvania, and the Pennsylvania Sheriffs’ Association are joining forces this holiday season to educate airline travelers on the safe and proper way to transport firearms and thereby reduce risk and delay to the traveling public.
Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officers in Pennsylvania are on pace to seize a record number of firearms at Pennsylvania airport security checkpoints in 2021, despite greatly reduced air traffic due to the pandemic. Most of the firearms seized by TSA are loaded. Firearms at security checkpoints pose a serious security risk to the public and to TSA officers. Passengers who bring firearms to security checkpoints also disrupt the security screening process and delay travelers from getting to their departure gates.
The number of airline travelers is expected to surge over the next six weeks, so it is important for the public to hear this message now. Responsible gun owners can protect the public by personally and carefully checking to make sure that their carry-on bags do not contain firearms.
“By partnering with the Pennsylvania Sheriffs’ Association to increase awareness and education regarding safe firearm transportation, we aim to reduce the number of firearms seized at airport security checkpoints. At the same time, to protect the traveling public and TSA employees, we will pursue all options including prosecution and referral of concealed carry permit holders to the appropriate Sheriff,” said U.S. Attorney Jennifer Arbittier Williams of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, U.S. Attorney John C. Gurganus of the Middle District of Pennsylvania, and Acting U.S. Attorney Stephen R. Kaufman of the Western District of Pennsylvania in a joint statement.
“As the law enforcement body that processes licenses to carry in the Commonwealth, Pennsylvania Sheriffs support Second Amendments rights. An overwhelming majority of Pennsylvanians with a license to carry are responsible gun owners, who comply with all state and federal laws, including not knowingly taking a weapon onto an airplane. We appreciate the U.S. Attorneys’ concerns about concealed weapons and are glad to work with them to bring attention to this matter. Therefore, we encourage all gun owners to double and triple-check your carry-on luggage to make sure you have not forgotten to remove any weapons,” said Pennsylvania Sheriffs’ Association President, Joseph Groody, who also serves as the Schuylkill County Sheriff.
In October, Acting U.S. Attorney Kaufman announced a deterrent strategy to reduce the number of guns at Pittsburgh International Airport security checkpoints. In addition to possible criminal charges and stiff civil penalties, passengers with guns in carry-on bags could face revocation of their concealed gun carry permit due to negligence. As a result of the collaboration between the Pennsylvania Sheriffs’ Association and the U.S. Attorney’s Offices, County Sheriffs in all 67 counties have agreed to provide permit holders with information about safe firearm transport and to review referrals from federal authorities for possible revocation of the offender’s concealed carry permit.
Passengers are permitted to travel with firearms in checked baggage if they are properly packaged and declared at their airline ticket counter. Firearms must be unloaded, placed in a hard-sided locked case, and packed separately from ammunition. Then the locked case must be taken to the airline check-in counter to be declared. Learn more at https://www.tsa.gov/travel/transporting-firearms-and-ammunition.
TSA may issue a $3,000 to $13,910 civil penalty to travelers who bring weapons to the security checkpoint. Civil penalties apply to travelers with or without concealed firearm carry permits because even though an individual may have a concealed carry permit, it does not allow for a firearm to be carried onto a plane.
The Pennsylvania Sheriffs’ Association is dedicated to preserving the time-honored Office of Sheriff in Pennsylvania and assisting the Commonwealth’s 67 County Sheriffs in acquiring the education and training required for law enforcement officers. More information on the organization is available at https://pasheriffs.org/.
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