Skip the fine: Follow these tips when traveling with firearms

Regional News

PITTSBURGH, Pa. – Traveling with a firearm could turn into a fine of more than $13,000, even with a permit, if the TSA finds it at an airport checkpoint.

The Pennsylvania Sheriffs’ Association and the United States Attorney’s Offices for the Western, Middle, and Eastern Districts of Pennsylvania are joining forces this holiday season to educate airline travelers on the safe and proper way to transport firearms and thereby reduce risk and delay to the traveling public.

Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officers in Pennsylvania are on pace to seize a record number of firearms at Pennsylvania airport security checkpoints in 2021, despite greatly reduced air traffic due to the pandemic. Most of the firearms seized by TSA are loaded. Firearms at security checkpoints pose a serious security risk to the public and to TSA officers. Passengers who bring firearms to security checkpoints also disrupt the security screening process and delay travelers from getting to their departure gates.

The number of airline travelers is expected to surge over the next six weeks, so it is important for
the public to hear this message now. Responsible gun owners can protect the public by personally
and carefully checking to make sure that their carry-on bags do not contain firearms.

“As the law enforcement body that processes licenses to carry in the Commonwealth, Pennsylvania
Sheriffs support Second Amendments rights. An overwhelming majority of Pennsylvanians with a
license to carry are responsible gun owners, who comply with all state and federal laws, including
not knowingly taking a weapon onto an airplane. We appreciate the U.S. Attorneys’ concerns
about concealed weapons and are glad to work with them to bring attention to this matter.

Therefore, we encourage all gun owners to double and triple-check your carry-on luggage to make
sure you have not forgotten to remove any weapons,” said Pennsylvania Sheriffs’ Association
President, Joseph Groody, who also serves as the Schuylkill County Sheriff.

“By partnering with the Pennsylvania Sheriffs’ Association to increase awareness and education
regarding safe firearm transportation, we aim to reduce the number of firearms seized at airport
security checkpoints. At the same time, to protect the traveling public and TSA employees, we will
pursue all options including prosecution and referral of concealed carry permit holders to the
appropriate Sheriff,” said U.S. Attorney Jennifer Arbittier Williams of the Eastern District of
Pennsylvania, U.S. Attorney John C. Gurganus of the Middle District of Pennsylvania, and Acting
U.S. Attorney Stephen R. Kaufman of the Western District of Pennsylvania in a joint statement.

In October, Acting U.S. Attorney Kaufman announced a deterrent strategy to reduce the number of
guns at Pittsburgh International Airport security checkpoints. In addition to possible criminal
charges and stiff civil penalties, passengers with guns in carry-on bags could face revocation of
their concealed gun carry permit due to negligence. As a result of the collaboration between the
Pennsylvania Sheriffs’ Association and the U.S. Attorney’s Offices, County Sheriffs in all 67
counties have agreed to provide permit holders with information about safe firearm transport and to
review referrals from federal authorities for possible revocation of the offender’s concealed carry
permit.

Passengers are permitted to travel with firearms in checked baggage if they are properly packaged
and declared at their airline ticket counter. Firearms must be unloaded, placed in a hard-sided
locked case, and packed separately from ammunition. Then the locked case must be taken to the
airline check-in counter to be declared. Learn more at https://www.tsa.gov/travel/transportingfirearms-and-ammunition.

TSA may issue a $3,000 to $13,910 civil penalty to travelers who bring weapons to the security
checkpoint. Civil penalties apply to travelers with or without concealed firearm carry permits
because even though an individual may have a concealed carry permit, it does not allow for a
firearm to be carried onto a plane.

The Pennsylvania Sheriffs’ Association is dedicated to preserving the time-honored Office of
Sheriff in Pennsylvania and assisting the Commonwealth’s 67 County Sheriffs in acquiring the
education and training required for law enforcement officers. More information on the
organization is available at https://pasheriffs.org.

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