TSA officers at Reagan National Airport stop Virginia man with loaded gun at checkpoint

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3 mins read

ARLINGTON, Va. – Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officers at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) prevented a Centerville, Va., man from bringing his 9mm handgun loaded with five bullets onto his flight yesterday, Wednesday, Dec. 22.  

“We have seen more guns caught at our checkpoints so far this year than the total number we stopped in 2019 and 2020 combined,” said Scott T. Johnson, TSA Federal Security Director for the airport. “It’s holiday season and more people are traveling at this time of year. Guns and airports don’t mix. Bringing a loaded gun with a bullet in the chamber is an accident waiting to happen.”

When the gun was spotted in the X-ray machine, the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority police were alerted. The police confiscated the gun and cited the man.

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, packed in a hard-sided locked case, and packed separately from ammunition. Then the locked case should be taken to the airline check-in counter to be declared. TSA has details on how to properly travel with a firearm posted on its website.

Bringing a gun to an airport checkpoint carries a federal civil penalty because TSA reserves the right to issue a civil penalty to travelers who have guns and gun parts with them at a checkpoint. Civil penalties for bringing a handgun into a checkpoint can stretch into thousands of dollars, depending on mitigating circumstances. This applies to travelers with or without concealed gun carry permits because even though an individual may have a concealed carry permit, it does not allow for a firearm to be carried onto an airplane. The complete list of civil penalties is posted online. Additionally, if a traveler with a gun is a member of TSA PreCheck®, that individual will lose their TSA PreCheck privileges.

Firearm possession laws vary by state and locality and passengers should do their homework to make sure that they are not violating any local firearm laws. Travelers should also contact their airline as they may have additional requirements for traveling with firearms and ammunition.

Firearms Caught at the Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport checkpoints, 2017 to 2021

Year2017201820192020*2021*
Guns caught1316141028

*Fewer passengers than previous year due to the pandemic.

Nationwide, TSA officers detected 3,257 firearms on passengers or their carry-on bags at checkpoints last year, although the total number of passengers screened at airport checkpoints across the country fell by 500 million compared to 2019 due to the pandemic. The result was that twice as many firearms per million passengers screened were detected at checkpoints in 2020 compared to 2019. In 2020, TSA caught approximately 10 firearms per million passengers as compared to about five firearms per million passengers in 2019.  Of the guns caught by TSA in 2020, about 83 percent were loaded.