NEWARK, N.J. (PIX11) – TSA officials are alarmed about a concerning trend they are seeing at security checkpoints at Newark Liberty International Airport.

TSA and Port Authority police officials in Newark held a briefing Wednesday to highlight their concerns about the frequency that travelers are being caught at security checkpoints carrying handguns and ammunition.  

“There appears to be an epidemic of ammunition that is cropping up at our security checkpoints — one that is easily preventable,” said Thomas Carter, TSA’s Federal Security Director for New Jersey. “Guns, ammunition and security checkpoints don’t mix. Guns and ammunition are never allowed to pass through a security checkpoint to be carried onto a flight, even if a traveler has a concealed carry permit.”

In 2022, TSA officers at Newark Liberty International Airport have discovered nine firearms at security checkpoints, which is on pace to surpass the 12 firearms found in all of last year. Most of the guns found with travelers were loaded, officials said.

A properly packed firearm in a hard-sided case. (TSA photo)

“The most common excuses we hear from travelers is that ‘I didn’t know it was in my bag’ or ‘I forgot it was in there.’ But there is no excuse for trying to bring a handgun on a flight,” Carter said. “Responsible gun owners know where their guns are at all times.”   

TSA officers found 5,972 guns at airport security checkpoints nationwide in 2021. Eighty-six percent of those guns were loaded, officials said.

Carrying a gun to an airport checkpoint is a federal civil penalty that can result in thousands of dollars in fines.

Passengers are allowed to travel with firearms in checked baggage as long as the guns are properly stored and declared at their airline ticket counter. Firearms must be unloaded, stored in a hard-sided locked case and packed separately from ammunition. The locked case must be taken to the airline check-in counter to be declared. Ammunition cannot be brought in carry-on baggage, but it can be transported in checked baggage.

For more information on how to properly travel with a firearm, visit the TSA website.