A record number of passengers attempting to board aircraft with firearms in their carry-on bags or on their person were stopped by Transportation Security Administration officers at West Virginia airports last year, matching a national trend.
A total of 18 handguns were detected at TSA security checkpoints in airports serving Charleston, Huntington, Beckley and Clarksburg-Bridgeport during 2019, according to TSA spokesperson Lisa Farbstein. The state’s previous record year for TSA firearm detections was set in 2016, when screeners found 14 weapons.
Although Charleston’s Yeager Airport has the state’s highest passenger volume, Huntington’s Tri-State Airport produced the most firearms at TSA security gates at West Virginia airports last year, when nine were detected.
Seven handguns were found by screeners at Yeager in 2019, while North Central West Virginia Airport Airport at Clarksburg-Bridgeport and Raleigh County Memorial Airport at Beckley each produced one. No firearms were found by TSA officers at Morgantown Municipal Airport last year.
In 2018, 10 handguns were found be TSA personnel at West Virginia airports, compared with only four detected statewide in 2015, according to the TSA.
Nationally, a total of 4,432 firearms were found in carry-on bags or on passengers at TSA checkpoints during 2019, accounting for a five percent increase over the previous year. The number of firearms intercepted by TSA officers has increased nearly five-fold since 2008, when 926 weapons were detected at airport security checkpoints across the nation.
Nationally, 87 percent of the firearms were loaded when discovered by the TSA, and one in three of the weapons had a round in the chamber.
According to the TSA, the airport with the most firearms detected last year was Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International, with 323, followed by Dallas-Fort Worth International with 217.
According to Yeager Airport Police, nearly all passengers cited for possessing weapons while attempting to board aircraft departing from Charleston tell officers they were not aware the firearms were in their check-in bags.
At Yeager Airport, passengers found carrying weapons are generally cited under state laws, and their cases handled in Kanawha County Magistrate Court. If charged under federal statutes, first-offense fines are typically $4,100, with multiple offenses drawing federal civil penalties of up to $13,000.