Police said they arrested a man on Thursday after TSA officers stopped him with a loaded gun in his carry-on bag at Newark Liberty International Airport.
TSA officers detected the 9mm handgun loaded with 13 bullets, including one in the chamber, in the traveler's bag on Thanksgiving. The man, a Pennsylvania resident, is the third person this month to be arrested at the airport after TSA found guns in their bags, authorities said.
The firearm is the 14th gun to be detected by airport security this year, according to the TSA. This year so far is tied with 2018 for the most firearms discovered at Newark. Last year, TSA officers found 5,972 guns at airport checkpoints across the country. 86% of them were loaded, the agency said.
Thomas Carter, TSA federal security director for New Jersey, said that the man faces a "stiff federal financial civil penalty that could run into thousands of dollars" in addition to his arrest.
"Getting caught with and arrested for carrying a loaded gun at our airport means this individual had a pretty bad Thanksgiving," Carter said. "Our TSA officers are on the job this busy holiday weekend so that others can reach their destinations safely and spend the holiday with their family and friends. Our team is staying vigilant and focused on the mission to help ensure that prohibited items are not carried onto a flight."
When traveling with a firearm, the TSA advises passengers to adhere to airline limitations, as well as declare each firearm when checking baggage. According to the agency's website, firearms must be "unloaded and locked in a hard-side container and transported as checked baggage only." Replica and toy guns can only be transported through checked baggage, not carry on. A concealed carry permit does not allow passengers to fly with a firearm.
Guns are considered loaded when the passenger can access both the firearm and its ammunition, even if they're kept in separate, but accessible bags. If a passenger is caught with an unloaded gun and accessible ammunition at an airport checkpoint, they can be charged with the same civil penalty as bringing a loaded firearm. TSA PreCheck members who are caught traveling with loaded firearms also risk losing their PreCheck privileges, the TSA said.
The TSA also instructs passengers to "do their homework" and be aware of local firearm possession laws, which vary by state and locality.