Rising number of guns detected at TSA checkpoints

Published: May. 19, 2022 at 7:17 PM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - The number of guns detected at airport checkpoints is on the rise across the country, and here in western Virginia.

Federal officials say it’s a disturbing, and preventable, trend.

Last year, officers with the Transportation Security Administration detected almost 6,000 guns at security checkpoints. And the vast majority were loaded.

“It is a very alarming trend that we’re seeing more and more people bringing firearms to airport checkpoints across the country,” said TSA spokesperson Lisa Farbstein. “And of course, our Roanoke-Blacksburg airport is no different.”

Just this week, a Bedford County man took two loaded semi-automatic handguns to the TSA checkpoint at Roanoke Blacksburg Regional Airport.

And there were similar discoveries in February, March and April.

Five guns so far in 2022 equal the total for all of last year.

“The most common excuse that we hear is that I forgot that I had my gun with me,” Farbstein said. “I forgot that I had my loaded gun with me, so it’s mind-boggling and it’s very, very disturbing.”

We asked Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) about the issue during a teleconference Wednesday.

“We don’t even need new rules here,” Warner said. “We need further enforcement of our existing rules to make sure people realize there’s going to be a penalty if you bring a gun and try to get it through a screening device, whether it’s a mistake or not, it just should not take place.”

Warner said he wants to know if the TSA believes it needs additional resources to address the issue.

Farbstein said she hopes gun owners are getting the message.

“You’re handling a deadly weapon. You need to know how to properly handle it. You need to be responsible,” Farbstein said. “Know where your gun is. Know if it’s loaded. Know if it’s not loaded. And definitely know that it is not in a carry-on bag.”

With the discovery of a firearm, TSA and police investigate the circumstances.

And while cases don’t always result in criminal charges, they do carry civil fines that can amount to thousands of dollars.

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