Transportation Security Administration officers found a loaded handgun in a man’s backpack at the Portland International Jetport on Friday, the fourth time in less than three months that security agents found a firearm at the airport.

Security agents at the Portland International Jetport found this loaded handgun tucked inside a backpack at an airport checkpoint Friday. Photo courtesy of Transportation Security Information

A TSA officer first spotted the gun when the carry-on bag entered the X-ray machine at the security checkpoint. Airport police came to the checkpoint and confiscated the gun, which was described as a 9 mm handgun loaded with 12 bullets. A written statement identified the man only as a resident of Hampden. He told officials he did not know he had his loaded gun in his backpack.

The man was allowed to call home to notify his wife, who picked up the gun and took it home.

The firearm was the first to be discovered at the jetport in 2020. But, in separate incidents, TSA officers found three guns in carry-on luggage in the final two months of 2019. That number is consistent with past years. In 2018, security discovered four guns; in 2017, three.

Passengers are permitted to travel with firearms, but only if they are properly stored in checked baggage and declared. Guns must be unloaded, packed in a hard-sided case, locked and packed separately from ammunition.

Across the country, TSA agents seized 4,432 firearms from carry-on bags in 2019. That is a 5 percent increase from the previous year, when agents discovered 4,239 firearms. Eighty-seven percent of the firearms detected last year were loaded.

Bringing a firearm to a TSA checkpoint can result in a criminal charge, and TSA has the power to assess civil fines of up to $13,333 for weapons violations. A typical first offense carries an average penalty of $4,100, according to the agency.

Related Headlines


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.