Tansportation Security Administration (TSA) officers prevented a Georgia man from carrying a loaded stolen handgun onto his flight on Monday, Nov. 29, at Newark Liberty International Airport.
Officials said the gun and boxes of ammunition were packed inside a carry-on bag and a TSA officer who was staffing the checkpoint X-ray monitor spotted the weapon.
TSA then alerted Port Authority Police to come take possession of and inspect the contents of the bag.
When the traveler realized that one of his carry-on bags had triggered an alarm and was going to be opened and inspected, he departed the checkpoint with his other carry-on items, and left the bag that triggered the alarm behind.
He then headed to his gate. Police arrived and confiscated the gun and ammunition.
A TSA supervisor and lead officer saw that the traveler left the checkpoint without the bag that triggered the alarm so they followed him and kept a constant visual on him until police arrived at the gate.
The TSA officers followed the man closely to ensure that he did not make contact with another passenger and to ensure that any items he did bring to the gate were not handed off or left somewhere in the sterile area of the terminal.
Police returned the man to the checkpoint, where he was ultimately arrested. Officials ran a check on the individual and the firearm and learned that the gun had been reported as stolen in Georgia.
“This individual knew he had a loaded gun with him and realized that he would be questioned by police, so he tried to distance himself from the carry-on bag and its contents by walking away,” said Thomas Carter, TSA’s Federal Security Director for New Jersey.
“It turns out that the man has an extensive criminal record and the gun was reported as having been stolen.
This was a very good catch on the part of our TSA officers. Not only did TSA prevent a deadly weapon from getting on board an aircraft, but we aided law enforcement in getting a dangerous individual off of the street.”
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.