TSA alarmed about frequency of guns carried to Norfolk International Airport checkpoints

Agency stresses proper way to transport a firearm for a flight
Norfolk International gun at checkpoint (February 2022).png
Posted at 7:43 PM, Mar 10, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-10 19:43:47-05

NORFOLK, Va. - Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officials say they are concerned about the frequency that they are seeing people carry handguns to security checkpoints at Norfolk International Airport. Most of those guns are found to be loaded.

“The most common excuse we hear is that someone forgot that they had their gun with them,” said Jeffrey Horowitz, TSA’s Assistant Federal Security Director for the airport. “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.”

The TSA team at Norfolk International detected 23 guns at the security checkpoints in 2021, and so far, they’ve caught two more guns this year.

Below is a year-by-year breakdown of the number of firearms caught by TSA officers at checkpoints at the airport:

  • 2016: 14
  • 2017: 10
  • 2018: 21
  • 2019: 15
  • 2020: 12
  • 2021: 23
  • 2022: 3 (as of March 3)

Nationwide, TSA officers detected 5,972 guns at airport security checkpoints last year, and 86% of those guns were loaded.

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

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.

Example of properly packed firearm for flight.jpg
A properly packed firearm sits in a hard-sided case and is locked. This case must then be taken to the check-in counter for the airline to transport it in the belly of the plane.

Travelers who bring weapons with them to an airport checkpoint are subject to civil penalties, which 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 someone may have a concealed carry permit, it does not allow for them to carry a firearm 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 person will lose their TSA PreCheck privileges.

Related: Norfolk International saw nearly double number of guns detected by TSA in 2021