In a concerning trend for air travel security, a total of 145 firearms were seized at security checkpoints across five Los Angeles-area airports last year.
On January 11, law enforcement officials issued a stern warning to gun owners, urging them to thoroughly understand the regulations surrounding the travel of weapons.
Strict penalties for violating TSA regulations
This announcement comes as part of a broader effort to enhance safety and compliance in air travel.
Jason Pantages, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Federal Security Director, emphasized the severity of penalties for carrying firearms to security checkpoints.
TSA imposes hefty fines for firearms at LAX checkpoints
“Travelers should know that TSA can levy a civil penalty for bringing a firearm to a security checkpoint,” Mr. Pantages stated during a press briefing at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX).
He highlighted that penalties could reach up to $15,000, particularly if the firearm is loaded—a condition that applied to 87% of the firearms found at LAX.
Surge in firearms seized at LA area airports in 2023
The report revealed that the 145 firearms intercepted were distributed among LAX, Long Beach Airport, Hollywood Burbank Airport, John Wayne Airport in Orange County, and Ontario International Airport.
LAX experienced the highest count with 81 firearms, marking a slight increase from the previous year.
This local trend mirrors a national increase, with over 6,700 firearms—93% loaded—discovered at 265 U.S. airports in 2023.
Air travel and firearms: Rules and regulations
Authorities and TSA officials reiterated that firearms are prohibited in carry-on luggage, regardless of the passenger’s concealed-weapon permit status.
For lawful travel with weapons, they must be stored in checked luggage and securely locked.
This guidance is crucial, given the uptick in air travel post-pandemic and the corresponding rise in weapon discoveries.
Legal consequences of carrying firearms in airports
The legal ramifications of attempting to board an aircraft with a gun vary. Los Angeles Airport Police Chief Cecil Rhambo outlined the protocol followed when a gun is detected.
The police take possession of the weapon, investigating its background for any links to criminal activities or warrants.
He also noted that passengers found with weapons are scrutinized for outstanding warrants.
Potential for criminal charges and diversion programs
In addition to TSA citations, individuals may face misdemeanor charges for bringing weapons to airport security checkpoints.
Mr. Rhambo mentioned that convicted individuals might be eligible for a one-year diversionary program.
“After a year, the owner of the firearm is eligible to retrieve the weapon as long as they remain clear from any disqualifying issues such as a restraining order, some mental health issues or domestic violence incidents,” he explained, outlining the conditions for the return of confiscated firearms.