PITTSBURGH –Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officers detected a loaded handgun in the carry-on bag of a Washington County, Pa., man at the Pittsburgh International Airport security checkpoint early Monday morning, August 8. The 9mm gun was packed in the traveler’s backpack.

There were two other situations at area airports where TSA stopped travelers who had guns in their possession at checkpoints. These incidents happened in West Virginia.

TSA catches loaded firearm during security screening at West Virginia airport

After detecting the gun, TSA officers notified the Allegheny County Police who confiscated the weapon from the traveler, a resident of Venetia, Pa., who told officials that he did not know that his gun was in his backpack.

“The traveler who was caught with his handgun this morning told us that he didn’t know he had it with him,” said Karen Keys-Turner, TSA’s Federal Security Director for the airport. “If you own a firearm, it is important to know where it is at all times. After all, it is a deadly weapon and the importance of knowing its whereabouts should not be taken lightly.”

When a local resident brings a gun to the airport security checkpoint, the U.S. States Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Pennsylvania requests that the County Sheriff’s Department rescind that resident’s firearms concealed carry license due to negligence.

TSA reserves the right to issue a civil penalty of up to $13,900 to individuals who bring weapons with them to a checkpoint. Civil penalties for bringing a handgun into a checkpoint can stretch into thousands of dollars, depending on mitigating or aggravating 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. If a traveler with a gun is a member of TSA PreCheck®, that individual will lose their TSA PreCheck privileges.

Guns detected at Pittsburgh International Airport security checkpoints, 2017 to 2022

Travelers are allowed to transport their firearms as checked baggage if they are properly packed and declared at their airline ticket counter to be transported in the belly of the plane with checked baggage. 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.

TSA catches loaded firearm during security screening at Huntington Tri-State Airport

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 delay travelers from getting to their gates.

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.