An Arizona man was arrested by police after Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officers at Pittsburgh International Airport detected a loaded handgun among the man’s belongings. The .380 caliber gun was loaded with five bullets.
When the man unzipped his laptop bag at the security checkpoint, his loaded gun fell onto the floor. TSA officers took possession of the firearm and contacted the police, who confiscated the weapon and arrested the man on a weapons charge. The man also faces a stiff federal financial civil penalty. Federal penalties for bringing weapons to the checkpoint can run as high as $15,000, depending on the circumstances.
“There is absolutely no excuse for bringing a firearm to one of our checkpoints,” said Karen Keys-Turner, TSA’s Federal Security Director for the airport. “Travelers are responsible for the items that they have in their possession. I strongly encourage gun owners to take a few moments before they come to the airport to refresh their familiarity with the proper procedures on how to pack a gun for a flight. Firearms should never be brought to the security checkpoint in carry-on luggage. Responsible gun owners know this,” she said.
Passengers are permitted to travel with firearms only in checked baggage if they are unloaded and packed in a hard-sided locked case. 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.
Firearms are not permitted through a security checkpoint because passengers should not have access to a firearm during a flight. This even applies to travelers with concealed carry permits or are enrolled in the TSA PreCheck® program, who will lose their TSA PreCheck privileges if they bring a gun to a checkpoint. Individuals who bring their gun to a security checkpoint also face a federal financial civil penalty.
Last year, 6,542 firearms were caught at 262 out of 430 airport security checkpoints nationwide. Eighty-eight percent were loaded.
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 gun 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.