Two men were arrested by police after Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officers caught them with guns at security checkpoints within a week of each other.
A TSA officer stopped a Ridgefield Park, New Jersey, man with a gun tucked into his backpack on Friday, June 11, in Terminal C.
The gun was packed inside of two soft-sided zippered cases within a backpack and initially appeared to be a large belt buckle with a replica gun on it, but upon closer inspection it turned out to be an actual real firearm that could pop out of its decorative metallic oval frame.
The man told officials that he forgot that he had his gun with him.
TSA officials said on June 3, officers caught an Easton, Pennsylvania, man with a handgun in his carry-on bag at one of the checkpoints in Terminal A. He also told officials that he forgot that he was carrying a gun with him.
In each instance, TSA officers spotted the handguns inside carry-on bags as they entered a checkpoint X-ray unit.
Port Authority Police were alerted, confiscated the weapons and arrested the men on weapons charges.
“Claiming to forget that you have a gun with you is inexcusable,” said Thomas Carter, TSA’s Federal Security Director for New Jersey.
“If you own a gun you need to know where it is at all times. Each of these individuals now faces a stiff federal financial penalty that could cost them thousands of dollars.”
The TSA officers at Newark “are good at their jobs, and even during this pandemic they are remaining vigilant and focused on their mission,” Carter added.
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. If a traveler with a gun is a member of TSA PreCheck®, that individual will lose their TSA PreCheck privileges.
When an individual shows up at a checkpoint with a firearm, the checkpoint lane comes to a standstill until the police resolve the incident.
Guns at checkpoints can delay travelers from getting to their gates.
Passengers are permitted to travel with firearms in checked baggage if they are properly packaged and declared at their airline ticket counter to be transported in the belly of the plane.
Guns are absolutely not permitted to be carried onto planes. Checked firearms must be unloaded, packed in a hard-sided case, locked, and packed separately from ammunition.
TSA has details on how to properly travel with a firearm posted on its website. Firearm possession laws vary by state and locality and travelers should check into firearm laws before they decide to travel with their guns.
Travelers should also contact their airline as they may have additional requirements for traveling with firearms and ammunition.
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.