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A Floyd County woman is charged with bringing loaded handgun to airport screening at Roanoke-Blacksburg Regional Airport. She becomes the sixth person that TSA screeners have caught this year with a firearm in carry-on bags at ROA. The woman told officials she forgot she had it with her. She faces weapons charges and federal financial civil penalties.

NEWS RELEASE: ROANOKE, Va. – Transportation Security Administration officers stopped a Willis, Virginia, resident from carrying her .357 revolver onto her flight at Roanoke-Blacksburg Regional Airport on Sunday, Nov. 14. The handgun was loaded with five bullets.

TSA officials detected the handgun 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. The woman told officials that she learned that her flight was delayed so she placed the gun into her handbag to head back to town and when she returned to the airport, she said she forgot that she had her loaded handgun in her handbag.

In addition to being cited by the police, she now faces a stiff federal financial civil penalty for carrying a loaded gun to a TSA security checkpoint.

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 delay travelers from getting to their gates and inconvenience other passengers who are in the checkpoint line.

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

Year2017201820192020*2021*
Guns caught 36 516

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

Nationwide, TSAofficers 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.