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Local man cited by police after TSA stops him from carrying a loaded handgun onto his flight at DCA

A Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officer at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) prevented an Alexandria, Va., resident from bringing his loaded handgun onto his flight this morning, July 25. It was the 16th gun detected by TSA officers at the airport so far this year.

The 9mm gun was loaded with nine bullets plus one in the chamber and was detected via the X-ray machine as the man was entering the security checkpoint with his carry-on items. A TSA officer spotted the gun in the man’s laptop bag. TSA officials notified the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority police who confiscated the gun and cited the man on a weapons charge.

The man told officials that he had gone to a firing range with his gun a few days prior to his scheduled flight and then placed the loaded gun into his laptop bag. He said that he forgot it was packed with his laptop on the day he was ticketed to fly.

“All passengers are responsible for all items in their carry-on bags and their checked baggage,” said John Busch, TSA’s Federal Security Director for the airport. “Every time we fly we must inspect these bags thoroughly to ensure we are not bringing any prohibited items to the airport. And every time we fly we receive multiple reminders to leave firearms at home. Each time responsible gun owners see this reminder they must confirm that they positively know where that firearm actually is – safely locked and secured.

“If you own a firearm, it is your responsibility to know the laws, rules and regulations when it comes time to traveling with your gun, and you must know where the firearm is at all times,” Busch said. “Bringing a firearm with you to the airport security checkpoint is a violation of Virginia law. You will be referred to local law enforcement for potential charges and you will also face a financial civil penalty.”

Passengers are permitted to travel with firearms only in checked baggage if they are properly packaged and declared at their airline ticket counter. 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 may 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.

Nationwide, TSA officers detected 5,972 firearms on passengers or their carry-on bags at checkpoints last year. Of the guns caught by TSA in 2022, about 86 percent were loaded.

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