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Firearms caught at airport checkpoints are on the rise

Tom Magnarelli
An example of a gun in a hard-sided case as part of TSA demonstration on firearm checking.

Two firearms were caught at checkpoints in Syracuse's Hancock International Airport this year. The number of firearms being brought to airports across the country is rising and officials want travelers to know how to fly safely with them.


Transportation Security Administration officials say yes, you can travel with a firearm on a flight but no, you cannot bring it on the plane with you. Lisa Farbstein is a regional public affairs manager for the TSA and says a firearm needs to be declared and checked-in at the counter where you check your bags and get your ticket.


Credit Tom Magnarelli / WRVO News
Lisa Farbstein, a regional public affairs manager for the TSA.

“What we want to stress is that you can fly with your firearm," Farbstein said. "It's just that there's a right way to do it and a wrong way to do it and we just ask people to do it the right way. The reason is, we're seeing an increase in the number of firearms people are bringing to checkpoints."  


Make sure it is in a hard-sided case with at least two heavy-duty locks, not a soft-sided case like a backpack or briefcase.


“We don't want somebody to be able to break into it, to maybe slit it and grab it," Farbstein said. "It should be harder for somebody to get to it, is the point. It should always go into the belly of the plane. There should never be any access to the firearm while in flight.”


Never bring a firearm to an airport checkpoint with metal detectors and carry-on bags. Travelers can face steep fines if they are caught with a firearm there. The TSA can issue citations of up to $11,000.


Credit Tom Magnarelli / WRVO News
Airport security at Syracuse's Hancock International Airport.

“The most common excuse that we hear when people do show up at the checkpoint with firearms is that they tell us that they forgot that they had it with them," Farbstein said. "If you own a firearm, you just need to know where it is at all times.”  


Any ammunition should be in its original box and, just like the firearm, secured away at check-in.


There have been 300 more firearms caught at airport checkpoints across the U.S. this year compared to the same time in 2014. Eleven firearms were found in carry-on bags at upstate New York airports in 2014 compared to about half that in the previous year. The number of firearms that can be checked on a plane is determined by the airlines.