EVERETT — You’d think by now that people would know they can’t take guns on a plane, especially loaded guns.
But it happened three times this month at the Paine Field terminal.
That makes four loaded firearms so far this year, which equals the total for all of 2022 at the Snohomish County airport.
“Firearm owners are becoming more and more careless,” said Lorie Dankers, a Transportation Security Administration spokesperson. “No excuse is good enough.”
Everything halts at a security checkpoint when a firearm is detected by TSA screeners, who must summon law enforcement to remove the weapon.
The busy travel season is just beginning.
“We are looking ahead to Memorial Day and we’re talking about record-setting travel volumes starting as early as this weekend,” Danker said.
In the May 11 gun incident at Paine Field, TSA officers found a 9 mm Sig Sauer handgun and notified deputies with the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office, who removed the loaded firearm from the X-ray tunnel. The passenger, who was headed to San Francisco, was escorted out by law enforcement.
The most recent loaded gun was caught by TSA screeners on May 19 at Paine Field.
On May 10, TSA officers at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport found a loaded 9 mm Glock pistol and 24 rounds of ammunition in the carry-on of a traveler ticketed to Los Angeles. The Port of Seattle Police Department removed the gun from the X-ray tunnel.
The count is 41 guns caught by Sea-Tac TSA already this year, and 113 firearms in 2022. Last year, TSA officers found 6,542 firearms at 262 airports nationwide, a spike from the 4,432 detected in pre-pandemic 2019.
Dankers said 92% of guns found by TSA nationwide this year were loaded, about 5% higher than in 2022. At Paine Field, the rate is currently 100%.
The firearms are usually an oversight by passengers who, as odd as this might sound, forget they are packing a weapon. They grab the same bag they took on a car trip, train trip or hunting trip, Dankers said.
“Always unpack your bag before you pack it for the trip,” Dankers said. “Make sure you are starting from zero.”
TSA officers at Paine Field routinely find rounds of ammunition, brass knuckles and numerous blades.
For firearms, TSA can levy a civil penalty against the passenger up to $14,950 per violation. Each incident is evaluated on a case-by-case basis.
Even with a concealed weapons permit, firearms are never permitted in carry-on luggage.
Guns can be transported only if unloaded, packed in a locked, hard-sided case and placed in checked baggage after being declared at the ticket counter. Ammunition and firearm parts, including frames, receivers, clips and magazines, are also prohibited in carry-on baggage and must be checked. That goes for firearm replicas.
“I am hopeful that the discovery … at the two Puget Sound airports will serve as a wake-up call for anyone who wants to travel with a firearm,” Gregory Hawko, TSA federal security director in Washington, said in a news release. “As a community, we continue to ask firearm owners to pause and commit to doing better when traveling with a gun.”
Fireworks with explosive materials are not allowed in carry-on or checked bags.
“Star Wars” light sabers, laser pointers and antlers are permitted on a plane.
The TSA website has a thorough “What can I bring?” search option.
A little homework can keep those security lines moving.
“Even the oversized liquid slows everything down for everybody,” Dankers said. “You don’t want to be that person.”
Andrea Brown: 425-339-3443; email@example.com; Twitter: @reporterbrown.
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