Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officers at Newark Liberty International Airport this week stopped two travelers with loaded guns in two days after detecting the weapons at a security checkpoint in Terminal B.
A traveler from Brooklyn, N.Y. was found to have a loaded 9mm handgun in a backpack on Wednesday, May 3, and a Garnerville, N.Y., traveler was found to have a 9mm handgun today, May 4. The incidents were not related.
In each instance when a TSA officer spotted the guns in the checkpoint X-ray machine, Port Authority Police were alerted, came to the checkpoint, and removed the firearms from the X-ray machine.
When an individual shows up at a checkpoint with a firearm, the checkpoint lane comes to a standstill until the police resolve the incident. All remaining travelers are shifted to another lane, thus delaying them from passing through the checkpoint because guns at checkpoints can delay travelers from getting to their gates.
On March 23, 2023, Lisa McCormick, a progressive anti-violence advocate, said Congress should be concerned about the increasing frequency with which travelers are carrying handguns at airports.
“While it is good that weapons are being found at security checkpoints, I have no confidence that all of the firearms airline passengers are toting have been identified,” said McCormick. “Just recently, there have been multiple disturbing reports about travelers at airports carrying handguns.”
“Last year, 6,542 firearms were caught by TSA at 262 out of 430 airport security checkpoints nationwide,” said McCormick. “Eighty-eight percent of those guns were loaded.”
Each individual faces a stiff federal financial civil penalty for bringing a gun to a security checkpoint. The penalty for bringing a weapon to a TSA checkpoint can cost as much as $15,000, depending on the circumstances.
The proper way to transport a firearm for a flight is to ensure it is unloaded, packed in a locked hard-sided case, and taken to the airline counter to be declared and transported in the belly of the aircraft so that nobody has access to it during a flight. Details on transporting firearms and ammunition are posted on TSA’s website.
“Bringing a loaded gun to our checkpoints presents a security and safety concern,” said Thomas Carter, TSA’s Federal Security Director for New Jersey. “These two back-to-back gun catches bring our count to seven guns detected at our checkpoints this calendar year.
That puts us on pace to surpass the 14 guns that we prevented from being carried onto planes in 2022, which would set a new record for the number of firearms detected in a single calendar year. Our TSA officers are good at what they do, but this is not the type of record we want to set. We would much rather see fewer travelers bringing firearms to our security checkpoints.”
McCormick said there are more guns in the United States than there are people and politicians in Congress, who have the authority to regulate firearms, have failed to do their jobs.
“Cowards in Congress have failed to exercise their authority to regulate firearms, which is specifically enumerated in Article I, Section 8, Clause 16 of the Constitution of the United States,” said McCormick, a longtime advocate for common sense laws that will save lives. “Under World War I the militia had been an almost entirely state institution, but it was brought under the control of the federal government as the National Guard.”
“Court rulings have hindered the ability of states to regulate firearms, but it is obvious that Congress has the constitutional authority to enact gun control laws,” said McCormick.
TSA firearms catches at Newark Liberty International Airport airport checkpoints are on track to be higher in 2023 than any previous year.
TSA reserves the right to issue a civil penalty to travelers who have guns and gun parts with them at a checkpoint. This applies to individuals 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.
TSA reminds people to always know the contents of their carry-on bag prior to coming to the security checkpoint. TSA has multiple resources available to help determine whether an item is permitted in carry-on baggage, checked baggage, either or neither.
Travelers can use the “Can I Bring?” feature on the TSA website or on the free downloadable myTSA app. Travelers can also tweet to @AskTSA or send a text message (275-872) if they have a travel question or are unsure if an item is allowed through security in a carry-on bag. Just snap a picture or send a question and get real-time assistance.