Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officials and the Maryland Transportation Authority Police are concerned about the increase in the frequency that they are seeing travelers carry handguns to security checkpoints at Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI).
Last year TSA officers detected 35 handguns at Baltimore security checkpoints, which set a new record for the most guns brought to the airport checkpoints in a single year. Eighty-three percent of the guns caught at Baltimore last year were loaded. Already in 2023, 10 guns have been detected at the airport’s checkpoints, including one that was just caught on Tuesday.
“The most common excuse we hear is that someone forgot that they had their gun with them,” said Christopher Murgia, TSA’s Federal Security Director for Maryland. “That’s no excuse. If you own a firearm, you need to know where it is at all times. It’s part of being a responsible gun owner.”
Murgia added that, “Our officers are good at their jobs, but that is not the type of record we want to set. We would much rather see travelers pack their firearms properly for a flight or leave them at home.”
Last year, 6,542 firearms were caught by TSA at 262 out of 430 airport security checkpoints nationwide. Eighty-eight percent of those guns were loaded.
“The MDTA Police are committed to ensuring a safe travel experience for everyone traveling through BWI Airport,” MDTA Police Captain Kevin Ayd said. “A big piece of that mission is partnering with TSA to ensure firearms are transported safely and legally.”
If an individual brings a gun to one of the security checkpoints at Baltimore, the Maryland Transportation Authority Police are notified, take possession of the firearm and decide whether the individual should possibly be cited or arrested.
Passengers are permitted to travel with firearms in checked baggage if they are properly packaged and declared at their airline ticket counter. Firearms must be unloaded and placed in a hard-sided locked case. Then the locked case must be taken to the airline check-in counter to be declared. TSA has details on how to properly travel with a firearm posted on its website.
TSA reserves the right to issue a civil penalty to travelers 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. The civil penalty for bringing weapons to airports recently was increased to a maximum of $15,000.
The prohibition for bringing guns to checkpoints 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.
“The penalties are stiff for carrying a gun to a checkpoint,” Murgia said. “You could face criminal penalties on top of federal civil citations that can be extremely costly. My advice is to not make the mistake of bringing your gun to the checkpoint in the first place. We’re happy to help transport your firearm. All we ask is that you pack it safely and properly for your flight.”
Travelers are responsible for the contents of bags and TSA recommends that travelers go through their carry-on and checked bags before they head to the airport to ensure that they have no illegal or prohibited items inside
Firearm possession laws vary by state and locality and passengers should do their homework to make sure that they are not violating any local firearm laws. Travelers should also contact their airline as they may have additional requirements for traveling with firearms and ammunition.