Norfolk airport closing in on record for guns caught at TSA checkpoints

·2 min read

Norfolk International Airport officials say they’ve found more undeclared firearms at security checkpoints in what’s been a record year for the Transportation Security Administration nationwide.

As of Oct. 3, 4,495 passengers nationally were stopped from carrying firearms onto flights, according to TSA. The previous record was set in 2019 at 4,432.

Norfolk security has stopped 17 weapons that weren’t properly declared prior to boarding, according to TSA officials. Steve Sterling, deputy executive director at the airport, which is also known by the code ORF, says it works closely with Norfolk police and the commonwealth’s attorney to prosecute these cases.

The 17 weapons found so far this year are inching toward a record year in Norfolk. In 2018, 21 passengers were caught carrying weapons, which broke a record set previously in 2016.

In 2020, just 12 passengers were caught with a weapon; in 2019, 15 were found and in 2017, 10.

“Regarding cases at ORF, most violators cite lack of awareness that their gun was in the carry-on bag as opposed to a lack of understanding that guns are prohibited in carry-on bags,” Sterling said. “I cannot emphasize enough the importance of emptying the carry-on bag prior to packing it for a flight.”

TSA only allows passengers to transport unloaded firearms in a locked, hard-sided container as checked baggage. Firearms also must be declared when checking your bag at the ticket counter and each time you present it for transport as checked baggage.

Ammunition is also prohibited in a carry-on but may be transported in checked luggage. TSA may request to open the firearm container to ensure compliance with TSA regulations.

The national figures represent firearms found on passengers or in their carry-on bags; they don’t include improperly packed firearms at checked baggage stations, toys, replicas and BB guns.

TSA authorities say having firearms at security checkpoints introduces an “unnecessary risk” for all passengers. Owners of improperly packed firearms may face a civil penalty. Passengers often have their weapons seized, face fines and possible criminal prosecution though firearms possession laws vary by state and local government.

“The number of firearms that our TSA officers are stopping at airport checkpoints is alarming,” TSA Administrator David Pekoske said in a press release. Firearms, “have no place in the passenger cabin of an airplane, and represent a very costly mistake for the passengers who attempt to board a flight with them.”

Lyndon German, frederick.german@virginiamedia.com

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