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TSA sees uptick in guns at BWI security checkpoint

CBS News Live
CBS News Baltimore Live

BALTIMORE -- A record number of guns were detected inside carry on bags at BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport last year, and 2023 is already on track to set a new record.

The TSA and Maryland Transportation Authority Police are now issuing a warning for travelers to pack their guns correctly and avoid the stiff penalties that come if caught with a gun.

At a press briefing Thursday, the TSA said 35 guns were detected at BWI's security checkpoints in 2022. So far in 2023, ten have been detected, with one as recent as Tuesday.

"We simply cannot have that. Firearms are strictly prohibited from being in their carry on bag," said Christopher Murgia, TSA's Federal Security Director for Maryland.

As for why it's happening, TSA agents are finding people are being forgetful.

"A gun owner should know and be responsible at all times where their firearm is," Murgia said. "Telling us that they forgot it was in their carry on is really not a good excuse, but that really is the most common excuse that we get."

That's a surprise for Debbie Hilgedick and her husband Steve Hilgedick, WJZ caught them at BWI on their way home to Portland, Oregon. One of their sons travels with a gun often, they say he always does it by the book.

"I could never forget I had a gun in my bag. They're frightening, first of all, that's irresponsible to forget," Hilgedick said.

All guns have to be unloaded and packed into a hard-sided case. These cases need to be checked in and declared with your airline with a form. This goes for guns of all sizes.

If you do get caught with a gun at a security checkpoint, you're subject to a federal civil penalty of up to $15,000. Also, depending on the circumstances, you could be arrested and criminally charged.

"When we do seize a firearm, we do hold onto it until the completion of the judicial process," said Capt. Kevin Ayd, with MDTA police. "Then a judge will determine if that firearm can be returned to the rightful owner, or if it gets turned over to the state."

Nationally, the TSA found more than 6,000 guns in carry on bags.

For more information about what to pack in your carry on or checked baggage, you can click here. You can also download the MyTSA app.

The TSA also recommends contacting them on Twitter or Facebook, where you can send a picture of what you'd like to pack to see if it's allowed. 

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