DESTIN, Fla. (WMBB) — The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) intercepted five guns at Destin-Fort Walton Beach Airport (VPS), the same number at Northwest Florida Beaches Internation Airport (ECP).
TSA said most of these are from local residents who forget to take them out of their bags.
“Mostly it’s simply that they forgot they might have used that suitcase for a road trip, and then they didn’t empty the suitcase before they came to the airport. So our advice is empty your suitcase and then start repacking,” said Sari Koshetz, TSA Spokesperson.
Nationwide, officers found 1,508 firearms at airport security checkpoints during the first quarter of 2023. That is a 10.3% increase over the same period in 2022. More than 93% of the firearms were loaded.
“Unfortunately, across the country, we have seen more passengers bringing guns to the federal checkpoints,” sad Koshetz. “An accidental discharge could be very fatal.”
In response to the surge in firearms, TSA has increased the maximum civil penalty for a firearms violation to $14,950.
“They’re saying they’re forgetting. Of course, that’s still going to be investigated by us because they face the civil penalty from the TSA, and they also face possible arrest. So instead of leaving and going on their vacation or going to visit family, they could be going to jail,” said Koshetz.
In 2022, VPS reported 27 total guns found by TSA officers, 14 at ECP.
Koshetz said there is a legal way to travel with a firearm, but it should never be in a carry-on bag.
“If you go to New York and you have your gun, even in your checked bag, you will be arrested. So check the law on the other side of your trip. If you know that you can have your gun on the other side of your trip, then you need to put it in your check bag. You need to declare it to the airline at check-in. It must be in a hard-sided locked case and unloaded,” said Koshetz.
Firearms are the number one priority for TSA officers, but other items are being confiscated daily.
“Most people carry a pocket knife, and TSA officers are stopping everybody in the checkpoint who has a pocket knife. So anybody who has any of the prohibited items in their bags, we have to stop that bag, we have to pull it aside, we have to assign an officer to open the bag, remove the item, and that’s going to slow down the line for you and everybody behind you,” said Koshetz.
Fireworks, smoke bombs and pepper spray are also a no-go for planes in case they ignite or combust during flight.
“Any kind of fireworks, fireworks are flammable and explosive, so anything that’s flammable, corrosive, explosive, which includes household chemicals that people, strangely enough, want to bring on the plane, they can’t be in your check bag either,” said Koshetz.
Know before you go:
TSA has a page on its website to search for each item in question. The site will tell you if the item can go in checked luggage, carry-on luggage, or not at all.