TSA Continued to Detect Slight Uptick in Firearms Caught at New York City Area Airports in 2018

Newark Airport Gun
This loaded handgun was detected at Newark Liberty International Airport by TSA officers in February 2018. (TSA photo)

Transportation Security Administration officers stopped 20 guns in the New York City region’s airports in 2018, the vast majority of  which were detected at Newark Liberty International Airport, which recorded 14 gun catches. Overall it marked a slight increase from the 19 caught in 2017 and mirrored the national trend of an uptick in the number of firearms travelers have been bringing to airports during the course of the past several years. 

John F. Kennedy International and LaGuardia Airports however, each saw a notable decrease in the number of guns caught at checkpoints from the previous year, both of which saw drops from six to two guns caught from 2017 to 2018.  New York City is known to have some of the strictest gun laws in the nation.

In total, 4,239 firearms were discovered in carry-on bags at checkpoints across the country last year, averaging about 11.6 firearms per day, approximately a 7 percent increase nationally in firearm discoveries from the total of 3,957 detected in 2017. Eighty-six percent of firearms detected at checkpoints last year were loaded and nearly 34 percent had a bullet in the chamber.

Travelers who bring firearms to the checkpoint are subject to criminal charges from law enforcement and civil penalties from TSA. Even if a traveler has a concealed weapon permit, firearms are not permitted to be carried onto an airplane. However, travelers with proper firearm permits can travel legally with their firearms in their checked bags if they follow a few simple guidelines.

TSA Firearms Catches at New York City Area Airport Checkpoints 


20172018
Newark Liberty International Airport 614
John F. Kennedy International Airport 62
LaGuardia Airport 62
Long Island MacArthur Airport 12
Total 1920

The top five airports where TSA officers detected guns at checkpoints in 2018 were: Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International with 298; Dallas/Fort Worth International with 219; Phoenix Sky Harbor International with 129; Denver International with 126 and Orlando International at 123.

Firearm possession laws vary by state and locality. TSA advises travelers to familiarize themselves with state and local firearm laws for each point of travel prior to departure to ensure that they have the proper gun permits for the states that they are traveling to and from. Airlines may have additional requirements for traveling with firearms and ammunition so travelers should also contact the airline regarding firearm and ammunition carriage policies prior to arriving at the airport.

Passengers are permitted to travel with firearms in checked baggage if they are unloaded, packed in a hard-side case, locked, and packed separately from ammunition. Ammunition must be in its original box and can be packed inside the hard-side case, next to the firearm. Even if the box of ammunition is not full, the bullets must be in their original case. Then the case with the firearm should be brought to the airline check-in counter and the airline representative informed that the passenger wants to travel with the gun. Firearms are transported inside checked baggage and are placed in the belly of the aircraft.

TSA has details on how to properly travel with a firearm posted on its web site here: https://www.tsa.gov/travel/transporting-firearms-and-ammunition.

As a reminder, individuals who bring weapons to a checkpoint are subject to federal civil penalties of up to $13,000. A typical first offense for carrying a handgun into a checkpoint is $3,900. The complete list of penalties is posted online here: https://www.tsa.gov/travel/civil-enforcement.

National Statistics of  guns caught at checkpoints 2008 to 2018

Year Nationwide
2018 4,239
2017 3,957
2016 3,391
2015 2,653
2014 2,212
2013 1,813
2012 1,556
2011 1,320
2010 1,123
2009 976
2008 926

TSA officers continued their overall vigilance in protecting our nation’s transportation systems in 2018, including catching unusual prohibited items at the checkpoints. For more specific information on unusual items, visit the TSA Blog at https://www.tsa.gov/blog for photos and graphics.

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