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It has happened again. The TSA found a loaded handgun today inside a passenger’s carry-on bag at Roanoke-Blacksburg Regional Airport. Officials say the woman bringing the gun was cited on weapons charges. By the TSA’s count, this is the 17th time in the past five years its Roanoke screeners have detected a handgun a passenger had in carry-on bags.

NEWS RELEASE: ROANOKE, Va. – Transportation Security Administration officers stopped a Roanoke resident from carrying her 9mm handgun onto an airplane at Roanoke-Blacksburg Regional Airport on Wednesday, August 12. The handgun was loaded with seven bullets, including one in the chamber.

TSA officials detected the gun in the woman’s carry-on bag. They immediately alerted the airport police, who responded to the checkpoint, confiscated the weapon and cited the woman on weapons charges.

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, packed in a hard-sided case, locked, and packed separately from ammunition. Firearm possession laws vary by state and locality. TSA has details on how to properly travel with a firearm posted on its website. Travelers should also contact their airline as they may have additional requirements for traveling with firearms and ammunition.

TSA reserves the right to issue a civil penalty to travelers who have guns and gun parts with them at a checkpoint. Civil penalties for bringing a handgun into a checkpoint can stretch into thousands of dollars, depending on mitigating 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.

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

TSA Firearms Caught at Roanoke-Blacksburg Regional Airport checkpoints, 2017 to 2021

Year 2017 2018 2019 2020* 2021*
Guns caught  3 6  5 1 2

*Significantly fewer passengers than previous years due to the pandemic.

Nationwide, TSA officers detected 3,257 firearms on passengers or their carry-on bags at checkpoints last year, although the total number of passengers screened at airport checkpoints across the country fell by 500 million compared to 2019 due to the pandemic. The result was that twice as many firearms per million passengers screened were detected at checkpoints in 2020 compared to 2019. In 2020, TSA caught approximately 10 firearms per million passengers as compared to about five firearms per million passengers in 2019.  Of the guns caught by TSA in 2020, about 83 percent were loaded.