Philadelphia Woman Arrested After TSA Spots Gun in Her Purse at Trenton-Mercer Airport

November 9, 2023

EWING TOWNSHIP, NJ – A Philadelphia woman was arrested by police after Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officers at Trenton-Mercer Airport detected a loaded handgun in her purse as she entered the airport security checkpoint on Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2023. The woman was not a ticketed traveler, but had been given a “gate pass” by the airline to allow her to escort her sister, who is visually impaired, to her gate.

The .38 caliber handgun was loaded with five bullets.

The gun was caught as the woman entered the security checkpoint. The X-ray unit alerted on her purse, which required a closer inspection. The firearm was confiscated by a Mercer County Sheriff’s Deputy and the woman was arrested on a weapons charge. The woman was not only cited by police, but she also faces a stiff financial civil penalty for bringing a gun to a TSA security checkpoint. 

This gun was caught by TSA officers at the Trenton-Mercer Airport checkpoint on Nov. 7. (TSA photo) The .38 caliber handgun was loaded with five bullets.

“It is a privilege to be given a gate pass by an airline to allow an individual to escort a traveler to their gate if the circumstances warrant it,” explained Thomas Carter, TSA’s Federal Security Director for New Jersey. “However, individuals who present a gate pass at the checkpoint must go through the same security screening process as ticketed travelers and that means no weapons are allowed.”

The woman told officials that she did not think to remove her gun before coming to the airport because she always keeps it in her purse. However, “there are no acceptable excuses for bringing a gun to our checkpoints,” Carter said.

Bringing a gun to an airport checkpoint carries a federal civil penalty because TSA reserves the right to issue a civil penalty to individuals who have guns and gun parts with them at a checkpoint. Civil penalties for bringing a gun into a checkpoint can stretch into thousands of dollars, depending on mitigating circumstances. This applies to individuals with or without concealed gun carry permits because a concealed carry permit does not allow a firearm to be carried through a checkpoint. The complete list of civil penalties is posted online. Additionally, if an individual with a gun is a member of TSA PreCheck®, that individual will lose their TSA PreCheck privileges.

Unsure if an item should be packed in a carry-on bag, checked bag, either or neither? Download the free myTSA app, which has a handy “What can I bring?” feature that allows you to type in the item to find out if it can fly. Or ask on Twitter or Facebook Messenger at @AskTSA. Travelers may send a question by texting “Travel” to AskTSA (275-872).