Some security experts suggest higher penalties and even placing violators on a no fly list to stop firearms from being on board planes.
According to the Transportation Security Administration, 5,972 guns were found at airport checkpoints in 2018. This is a break from the record of 2019, which was set in 2019.
Gun seizures are on the rise as airlines report record number of disruptive passengers while flying. That “makes for toxic combination”, Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-N.J.) said Tuesday.
Federal regulations prohibit the carrying of a firearm in a bag. Although they are not often prosecuted for gun possession, those who are are can face civil penalties of $1,500 up to $13,910.
At a hearing Tuesday of the House transportation-security subcommittee, which Coleman chairs, airport officials and some lawmakers argued for raising the fines.
General manager at Atlanta’s main airport, Balram Bheodari said that fines should increase and violators should be required for gun-safety classes. He suggested that Congress consider suspending quick-screening programs like PreCheck and putting violators onto the federal no fly list until they have completed safety training.
Jason Wallis, the police chief at Portland’s airport, advocated for higher fines. He stated that maximum penalties are rarely, if ever, imposed and that the current fines are not effective as deterrents.
Rep. Carlos Gimenez of Florida, however, stated that most people who bring guns to the airport forget it is in their bag. Officials at the airport agreed that this was what nearly all passengers with guns said — and that fines will not reduce the number found at checkpoints.
Gimenez stated that he was not certain if heightened penalties will be used to prevent this from happening. “It was a mistake.” If I forget that something was in there, you could charge me $100,000. It’s not clear that this will prevent anything.”
Coleman said that passengers should be aware that they are bringing their carry-on bags on board a plane.
“It’s difficult for me to believe everybody that gets captured… forgot that they had it,” she stated. “And even if they did remember, it’s still illegal and we must treat it as such.”
Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson airport had the highest number of guns detected in America last year. A passenger’s bag was removed from the airport for further screening . He reached inside it and fired. Although authorities believe that it was accidental, the incident involving a convicted felon caused panic and closed down the airport for over two hours.
Wallis stated that authorities will check to determine if a gun was stolen or used in a crime before they take it to an airport. The authorities question the passenger and forward the information to the FBI. However, they rarely file criminal charges. It’s often a civil penalty. He said that authorities may seize the gun occasionally, but they do so more often than not. This creates another safety problem.
Wallis stated that the passenger being questioned about having a gun had “missed their flight” and now there was an armed person in public.
Federal regulations allow guns that are not loaded to be carried in checked bags and placed in the cargo hold. The gun must be locked in a case and the passengers must inform the airline.