PSA: You can’t bring a gun on a plane. TSA confiscates record number of firearms in 2019

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In case anyone needs a reminder – you cannot carry a firearm onto an airplane.

An Alabama man found this out the hard way when he allegedly became the first person in 2020 to be caught by the Transportation Security Administration trying to carry a .22-caliber handgun onto a plane at Newark Liberty International Airport. He was subsequently arrested and charged.

“You just can’t bring a gun on a plane. It’s common sense,” says TSA spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein.

But it seems common sense is not so common. The TSA reports that the agency confiscated a record-breaking 4,432 firearms in carry-on bags or on passengers at security checkpoints in airports around the country in 2019. This is up 5% from 2018. TSA says that 87% of the guns were loaded.

“There’s a right way to travel with a firearm and a wrong way,” says Farbstein. “The wrong way is to bring it to a checkpoint.”

New Jersey flyers seem to be doing it correctly. While New York City-area airports saw a notable increase in confiscated firearms – 27 guns in 2019, up from 20 guns in 2018 – the number of guns confiscated in Newark decreased.

“The good news this year [2019] is 11 firearms were caught - which is down three. The previous year in 2018, 14 firearms were caught at Newark. So that's somewhat good news. It’s the trend we'd like to see in terms of seeing the numbers decreasing,” Farbstein says.

TSA officials say that they can’t explain why the numbers are increasing – but they say that they want to remind travelers that carrying a gun on an airplane is against the law.

“The most common excuse we hear is that, ‘I forgot I had my firearm.’ The second-most common is, ‘My wife packed my bag’ or ‘My husband packed my bag,’” says Farbstein. “I can tell you neither of those excuses fly.”

There is a legal way to travel with a firearm. The gun must be unloaded and packaged and locked in a hard case, separate from its ammunition. Travelers must bring that gun case to the check-in counter to be checked in under the airplane – it cannot be with the passenger in the cabin.

Anyone caught with a gun at security may face a fine or jail time.

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