TSA stops Florida man with loaded gun at Philadelphia International Airport

Wednesday, November 8, 2023
TSA stops Florida man with loaded gun at Philadelphia International Airport
TSA stops Florida man with loaded gun at Philadelphia International Airport

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- TSA officers at Philadelphia International Airport (PHL) stopped a Florida man from bringing his loaded handgun through a security checkpoint on Monday.

Officials said the 9mm gun was loaded with six bullets when the X-ray machine alerted the man's carry-on bag.

The firearm was confiscated by police, who cited the man on a weapons charge.

The man also faces a financial civil penalty for bringing a gun to a TSA security checkpoint.

The penalty for carrying weapons can reach as high as $15,000 depending on the circumstances, officials said.

"It is disappointing that we need to remind gun owners over and over that they can't carry a loaded firearm onto a plane. There is no excuse for bringing a gun to our checkpoints," said Gerardo Spero, TSA's federal security director for the airport. "You can't carry a firearm onto a flight, so don't bring one to our checkpoint and expect to bring it on board. As the Thanksgiving holiday approaches, our team is remaining vigilant when it comes to helping ensure that no illegal or prohibited items are carried onto a flight."

So far in 2023, 41 firearms have been caught at TSA checkpoints at PHL compared to just 20 in 2019.

That's on track to break a record set last year of 44 firearms being caught at TSA.

"It is very disappointing that we're seeing so many people continue to bring their guns to the checkpoints. These are not the types of records that we really want to set," said TSA spokesperson Lisa Farbstein.

Farbstein told Action News that many times, passengers say they simply forgot they were carrying a loaded gun in their carry-on luggage.

It's something passengers say they have a hard time understanding.

"I might forget I had a drink in my bag, but if they don't know they are carrying a weapon, that seems very strange to me," noted Donna Kaplan from Hawaii.

It's not just passengers who have tried to carry guns through TSA, however. In September, a flight attendant was stopped from boarding a plane at PHL with a loaded gun.

That came just weeks after an employee at the airport was stopped from bringing a gun through a checkpoint.

"So TSA is not only looking at screening passengers, but we also screen people who work in the airport," said Farbstein.

Punishment can vary based on a number of factors but can include stiff fines and jail time.

The district attorney's office says they have noticed an increased number of arrests for gun possession at the airport in recent years, with 13 this year so far.

There isn't a clear reason for the increase, but it does coincide with the historic rise in gun ownership during the pandemic.

"I guess it's a little frightening. I'm not sure why you have to have a firearm at the airport," said Chris Ghatak from Cherry Hill, New Jersey.

While passengers question why anyone would bring a gun to the airport, others say it proves that the TSA is doing its job.

"I'm always thankful for the TSA. It's a thankless job, so good for them," said Roseanne Patty from St. Louis, Missouri.

Knives are also a problem at checkpoints, officials say. TSA agents say they don't even count the number of knives they see, they weigh them.

The TSA estimates two to three tons of knives will be stopped at the airport this year.

Travelers who have a question for TSA officials can text "Travel" to AskTSA (275-872).