Reagan National Airport reaches record for guns carried on, caught at security

More guns are being found in carry-on luggage and stopped at airport checkpoints this year at Reagan National Airport, reflecting a troublesome national trend recorded by the Transportation Security Administration.

As of Nov. 23, TSA officers say they have stopped 30 guns from getting through DCA’s airport security in 2023, already reaching the previous record of most firearms caught in a year at the airport.

“It is disappointing to see travelers continue to bring their guns to our checkpoints because in doing so they create a potentially dangerous situation through their own actions,” said John Busch, TSA’s federal security director at DCA. “Responsible gun owners know where their guns are and they know not to bring them to a checkpoint.”

Hand gun and ammunition DCA airport
TSA officers at DCA stopped a traveler with this loaded handgun on August 11, 2023. (Courtesy Transportation Security Administration)

Guns can be transported legally on a flight if they are checked in a locked, hard-sided case, declared to the airline and unloaded. Security officers have to immediately alert the Washington Metropolitan Airports Authority Police when they detect a handgun in a carry-on, leading to federal civil penalties that include up to $15,000 citations and the possibility of an arrest.

“The most common excuse we hear is that someone claims they forgot they had their loaded gun with them,” Busch said. “If you own a firearm, you should know where it is at all times. It is part of being a responsible gun owner. Even if travelers have a concealed weapons permit, they are not allowed to board an airplane with the gun in carry-on luggage. The idea is that nobody should have access to a gun during a flight.”

Busch also pointed to how airport staff find lost carry-on bags daily at the airport, and a forgotten, loaded firearm in one of those bags could easily fall into the wrong hands.

“Being unaware that you are transporting a loaded firearm has potential to be the first link in a potentially tragic chain of events,” Busch added.

More guns are being detected at airports across the region, with BWI Marshall International Airport already reporting a new record of 36 guns being caught by TSA officers this year and Dulles International Airport getting dangerously closer to last year’s record 25 guns stopped at security checkpoints.

Nationally, 5,000 firearms have been stopped at airport checkpoints so far this year, which the agency said is on pace to surpass the record of 6,542 set last year.

To learn more about safely travelling with a firearm and ammunition, check out the TSA’s website.

Emily Venezky

Emily Venezky is a digital writer/editor at WTOP. Emily grew up listening to and reading local news in Los Angeles, and she’s excited to cover stories in her chosen home of the DMV. She recently graduated from The George Washington University, where she studied political science and journalism.

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