Guns in Carry-ons at This NC Airport Lead to Criminal Charges

March 13, 2023

The number of guns found in carry-on’s at Asheville Regional Airport has risen so sharply that passengers will now be criminally charged, airport officials said Friday.

Flyers who forgot they had a gun in a carry-on previously received only the prospect of a civil penalty from the federal Transportation Security Administration, according to an airport statement. Now they’ll be criminally cited, too.

Guns, guns and more guns

The Asheville airport’s public safety department updated its enforcement practices to reflect the change, which started Friday, airport officials said.

The TSA and other state and federal law enforcement agencies are encouraging criminal citations after the number of firearms found at airport checkpoints hit an all-time high across the country last year.

Nearly 88% of the firearms were loaded, TSA Administrator David Pekoske has said.

Charlotte Douglas International Airport and Asheville Regional Airport saw a record number of firearms seized at security checkpoints last year, while overall statewide numbers declined, The Charlotte Observer reported in January, citing TSA data.

Agents confiscated 117 firearms at CLT in 2022, compared with 106 the previous year, according to figures released by the Transportation Security Administration. That’s a 10% increase.

Charlotte’s airport is an American Airlines hub and one of the busiest airports in the world.

Raleigh-Durham International Airport had the largest drop in weapons found, The News & Observer reported, leading the overall statewide decline.

100% increase over previous record

The number of firearms seized at Asheville’s airport rose from 15 in 2021 to 26 last year, while dropping from 100 to 75 last year at Raleigh-Durham International Airport, according to the TSA.

“Already in 2023, the airport is on pace to see another increase,” Samuel Sales, chief of public safety at the airport said in the statement.

“We believe that through active criminal enforcement, in conjunction with community outreach and ongoing TSA civil penalties, we can reduce the number of firearms that people bring to the TSA screening checkpoint,” the chief said.

“Safety for the traveling public is my No. 1 concern, and we need travelers to leave their guns at home,” Sales said.

This will happen to you

The airport’s public safety department will seize firearms found during security screening and the flyer will be criminally charged per the state’s carrying concealed weapons law, Gen. Statute 14-269.

The passenger will receive a written citation mandating an appearance in state court and will then be released to continue their travel, unless other criminal activity is suspected, according to the statement.

The flyer also will face TSA civil penalties up to $14,950 and having their concealed carry permit revoked.

For details about how firearms may be placed in checked baggage, visit

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