Aug 3, 2022 - News

What happens when a passenger is caught with a gun at an airport

An X-ray image of a gun-shaped object in a bag and someone holding a model gun
Photo: Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post via Getty Images

A new video from a popular North Texas-based YouTube channel shows what happens when someone gets caught going through a TSA checkpoint with a gun in carry-on luggage.

Driving the news: A woman recently fired a handgun at Love Field, initiating a brief standoff outside security checkpoints, according to police.

Why it matters: TSA employees found 317 firearms at security checkpoints at DFW Airport in 2021, a nearly 50% increase over the number of guns found there in 2019.

  • DFW ranked second in the country for the number of guns found at TSA checkpoints, behind only Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson, the largest airport in the world by number of passengers.
  • Dallas Love Field TSA officers found 112 guns in 2021, breaking the 2019 record of 102, per the DMN.

Zoom out: Nationwide, TSA employees detected 5,972 firearms at airport security checkpoints in 2021, more than 16 a day, per TSA figures.

  • That's almost exactly the number of unruly passengers reported the same year: 5,981.

What happened: Audit the Audit, a YouTube channel that analyzes police interactions with civilians, posted a video of a man attempting to fly from Wisconsin to Dallas — with a loaded pistol in his backpack.

  • TSA officials immediately halted the line at the checkpoint and contacted police.
  • The passenger, who says he's a helicopter nurse traveling to Dallas for a speaking engagement, explains that he forgot his gun was in his bag — what approximately 90%-95% of people caught with guns say, according to testimony before Congress earlier this year.
  • The police officer on the scene — and not the TSA employees — had to handle the firearm.

Threat level: Going through a security checkpoint with a weapon is a violation of federal law, punishable by a fine of up to $10,000 and possible criminal charges.

  • TSA doesn't inform the passenger whether a civil or criminal penalty will be imposed at the time, but sends notification later.
  • Yes, but: A passenger may transport an unloaded firearm in their checked baggage as long as they declare it before checking the bag — and the gun is in a locked, hard-sided container.

In the end: The officer in this case detained the passenger while consulting with a supervisor but ultimately didn't charge him, and the passenger was allowed to give the gun to his wife and board the plane.

What we're watching: Suggestions being considered by Congress on how to reduce the number of passengers carrying guns to checkpoints include more signs, higher fines, mandatory gun safety training, revoking trusted traveler status and placing people on the no-fly list.

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