Asheville Regional Airport’s Department of Public Safety (AVL DPS) is updating its enforcement practices when firearms are brought to security screening at the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) checkpoint. Beginning March 10, 2023, any person found with a firearm at the checkpoint will be criminally cited in addition to possible civil penalties assessed by the TSA.
The TSA and other state and federal agencies involved in law enforcement are encouraging criminal citations in light of increasing numbers of firearms being discovered at airport checkpoints. In 2022, the number of firearms discovered at checkpoints reached an all-time high across the country. And according to TSA Administrator David Pekoske, nearly 88 percent of those firearms were loaded.
In 2022, AVL saw an all-time high for number of firearms at the checkpoint, with 26 guns discovered at security screening, a 100% increase over the previous record year in 2019. Already in 2023, the airport is on pace to see another increase. “We believe that through active criminal enforcement, in conjunction with community outreach and ongoing TSA civil penalties, we can reduce the number of firearms that people bring to the TSA screening checkpoint,” said Samuel Sales, Chief of Public Safety at AVL.
It is important to reduce the number of firearms brought to the checkpoint at AVL, especially as the airport grows and more passengers are flowing through each day. “That’s the goal,” said Sales. “We need to see the trend turn in the downward direction. Even if you are a legal gun owner, firearms have no place in carryon bags or concealed on a traveler’s body anywhere in the airport, unless properly declared and packed for transport in checked luggage. Safety for the traveling public is my number-one concern, and we need travelers to leave their guns at home.”
Travelers should be aware that firearms discovered at security screening will be seized as evidence by the AVL Department of Public Safety, the individual will be criminally charged with violation of North Carolina General Statute § 14-269 (Carrying Concealed Weapons), receive a written citation for mandatory appearance in state court, and will be released to continue their travel. If other criminal activity is suspected, additional measures may be taken including arrest. In addition, travelers will be subject to TSA civil penalties up to $14,950 and Concealed Carry Permits may be revoked.
Signs communicating that no guns are allowed are posted at the TSA checkpoint, and information is also included on the airport’s website. The airport will focus on this topic in public relations efforts to support education and compliance.
For more information about how firearms may be transported in checked baggage, visit tsa.gov. Also, check with your airline regarding airline-specific regulations.