TSA, COS officials remind the public how to travel properly with a firearm on a commercial aircraft

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Reminder comes ahead of anticipated busy spring travel period

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado – With more people traveling by air, officials with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and Colorado Springs Municipal Airport (COS) offered helpful tips so travelers know what to expect during what is projected to be a very busy spring break travel season nationally and locally. They also reminded those who are planning to travel with a firearm how to do so properly to avoid potential criminal and civil penalties.

Spring break travel outlook
Nationwide over the past three weeks, TSA officers are screening an average of 1.9 million people per day, which is a 50% increase from last year, but still down from pre-pandemic 2020 levels when TSA was screening approximately 2.1 million people per day. Passenger volumes at COS mirror national trends and TSA anticipates peak passenger volumes during the spring break travel period.

The busiest times at the TSA security checkpoint at COS are 5 a.m. to 7 a.m.; 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. The busiest days to travel are Thursdays and Fridays as well as Sundays and Mondays.

These peaks are driven by the flight departure schedules determined by the airlines. When there is a concentrated number of flight departures over a short period of time, there will be intervals when the number of departing passengers will make the TSA security checkpoint at COS very busy.

Some airlines are flying larger aircraft on some routes out of COS, increasing the number of travelers who need to be screened during peak times. This is why it is essential that travelers arrive early and prepared to allow for completion of every step of the travel process from curb to gate.

Increase in the number of firearms brought to the security checkpoint at COS
As of today, TSA officers have discovered nine firearms in travelers’ carry-on luggage at the COS security checkpoint this year, a threefold increase over the same point in 2021. The most recent firearm find was Sunday, March 6. Every firearm was discovered during the routine screening of carry-on property at the airport security checkpoint.

Nationally so far in 2022, TSA officers have discovered more than 975 firearms in travelers’ carry-on luggage. This represents a 43% increase over the number discovered at this point in 2021.

“Every traveler needs to check the contents of their carry-on luggage prior to leaving home to ensure they are not bringing prohibited items of any type to the security checkpoint. This is especially true for those who are traveling with a firearm,” said TSA Federal Security Director Larry Nau. “The recent increase in the number of firearms discovered by TSA officers at COS forces me to state the obvious: one firearm discovery at the checkpoint is one firearm too many. Avoid making a mistake, avoid expensive civil penalties and properly pack your firearm for travel in checked luggage.”

Below is a summary of TSA firearm discoveries from 2018 to 2020:

 

2018

2019

2020*

2021

2022**

COS totals:

12

4

9

15

9

National totals:

4,239

4,432

3,257

5,972

975+

* Number of passenger screened nationally was 39% of prior year’s total.
** 2022 data current as of March 9.

Anytime a TSA officer spots the image of a handgun on the x-ray screen, TSA immediately stops all screening and notifies the Colorado Spring Police Department, which responds to the security checkpoint. A law enforcement officer takes control of the firearm and removes the passenger and the weapon from the checkpoint.

In addition to potential criminal citations, travelers face civil penalties of up to $10,000 for bringing firearms to the security checkpoint. TSA evaluates each firearm incident on a case-by-case basis, but factors considered when determining the civil penalty amount are whether the firearm was loaded and whether there was accessible ammunition. Even if a traveler has a concealed weapons permit, firearms are never permitted in carry-on luggage.

Individuals who violate rules regarding traveling with firearms will have Trusted Traveler status and TSA PreCheck® expedited screening benefits revoked for a period of time. The duration of the disqualification will depend upon the seriousness of the offense and if there is a repeated history of violations.

How to travel with a firearm on a commercial aircraft

TSA and airport officials want travelers to know that firearms can be transported on a commercial aircraft only if they are unloaded, packed in a locked, hard-sided case and placed in checked baggage. Ammunition should be placed in its original packaging. Any type of replica firearm or firearm parts are also prohibited in carry-on baggage and must be transported in checked luggage.

At the airport during the check-in process, a passenger needs to go to the airline ticket counter to declare the firearm, ammunition and any firearm parts. Prior to traveling, passengers are encouraged to check gun laws and regulations at their destination to ensure they are in compliance with local and state laws. TSA also recommends travelers check with their airline prior to their flight to ensure they comply with any airline-specific requirements.

TSA has additional traveler information specifically related to the transportation of firearms and ammunition.

TSA reminds passengers to be aware of the contents of their carry-on bag prior to coming to the security checkpoint. TSA has multiple resources available to passengers to help them determine whether an item is permitted in carry-on baggage, checked baggage or not at all.

Travelers can use the “Can I Bring?” feature on the TSA website or on the TSA mobile app, myTSA. Travelers can also Tweet or Message “@AskTSA” if they have a travel question or are unsure if an item is allowed through security in a carry-on bag. Just snap a picture or send a question and get real-time assistance daily from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. MST.

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