TSA alarmed about frequency of guns carried to Philadelphia International Airport security checkpoints

TSA stresses the proper way to transport a firearm for a flight

February 11, 2022

HILADELPHIA –Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officials are highly concerned about the frequency that they are seeing travelers carry their handguns to security checkpoints at Philadelphia International Airport. Most of those guns are found to be loaded.

“To me, this looks like a gun epidemic—one that is easily preventable,” said Gerardo Spero, TSA’s Federal Security Director for the airport. “Guns and security checkpoints don’t mix. Guns are never allowed to pass through a security checkpoint to be carried onto a flight. However, passengers can transport their guns for their trips if they pack them properly and declare them to the airline.”

The TSA team at Philadelphia International Airport detected a record 39 firearms at the security checkpoints in 2021. Philadelphia-based TSA officers caught five more guns just last month. 

When an individual shows up at a checkpoint with a firearm, the checkpoint lane comes to a standstill until the police resolve the incident. Thus, guns at checkpoints can delay travelers from getting to their gates.

“The most common excuses we hear from travelers is that ‘I didn’t know it was in my bag’ or ‘I forgot it was in there.’ But there is no excuse for trying to bring a handgun on a flight,” Spero said. “A responsible gun owner knows where their guns are at all times.”  

Guns caught at TSA security checkpoints at Philadelphia International Airport 

Year201720182019202020212022(As of 2/10/22)
Guns caught at Philadelphia International Airport (PHL)35252026395

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, placed in a hard-sided locked case, and packed separately from ammunition. 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. 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.

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. Carrying a gun to an airport checkpoint carries a stiff federal civil penalty that can run into the thousands of dollars. Even if someone has a concealed carry permit, it does not allow for a firearm to be carried onto an airplane.

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.

Nationwide, TSA officers detected 5,972 guns at airport security checkpoints last year. Eighty-six percent of those guns were loaded.