It was a sticky situation in a Transportation Security Administration (TSA) checked baggage screening room at John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) when a TSA officer removed two jars of peanut butter, each containing parts of a disassembled semi-automatic handgun artfully concealed inside.
The .22 caliber gun parts were wrapped in plastic and had been jammed into the middle of two plastic jars of peanut butter. The gun’s magazine was loaded with bullets.
When the checked bag triggered an alarm in a Terminal 8 X-ray unit, a TSA officer opened the bag and upon closer inspection uncovered the concealed firearm parts. TSA officials notified the Port Authority Police, who came to the checked baggage room in JFK’s Terminal 8, confiscated the items, tracked down the traveler in the terminal and arrested him.
“The gun parts were artfully concealed in two smooth creamy jars of peanut butter, but there was certainly nothing smooth about the way the man went about trying to smuggle his gun,” said John Essig, TSA’s Federal Security Director for JFK Airport. “Our officers are good at their jobs and are focused on their mission—especially during the busy holiday travel period,” Essig said.
Travelers may transport their firearms for a flight if they have a proper permit and the gun is properly packed. Firearms and firearm parts must be unloaded, packed in a locked hard-sided case and taken to the airline check-in counter to be declared. At that point the airline representative will make sure that the firearm is transported in the belly of the plane. Additionally, replica firearms are prohibited in carry-on baggage and also must be transported in checked luggage.
Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officers intercepted a record number of firearms brought by passengers to airport security checkpoints in 2022. As of December 16, TSA has stopped 6,301 firearms; more than 88% were loaded. This number surpasses the previous record of 5,972 firearms detected in 2021. TSA anticipates it will prevent about 6,600 firearms in carry-on bags from entering the secure area of airports by the end of 2022, a nearly 10% increase over 2021’s record level.
Firearm possession laws vary by state and local government, but firearms are never allowed in carry-on bags at any TSA security checkpoint, even if a passenger has a concealed weapon permit. In order to reduce the threat of firearms at checkpoints, TSA has increased the maximum civil penalty for a firearms violation to $14,950. TSA determines the penalty amount for a violation based on the circumstances in each case. TSA will continue to revoke TSA PreCheck® eligibility for at least five years for passengers caught with a firearm in their possession. TSA may conduct enhanced screening for those passengers to ensure no other threats are present. Depending on state or local law in the airport’s location, passengers who bring firearms to a checkpoint may be arrested by law enforcement.
“I applaud the work of our Transportation Security Officers who do an excellent job of preventing firearms from getting into the secure area of airports, and onboard aircraft,” said TSA Administrator David Pekoske. “Firearms are prohibited in carry-on bags at the checkpoint and onboard aircraft. When a passenger brings a firearm to the checkpoint, this consumes significant security resources and poses a potential threat to transportation security, in addition to being very costly for the passenger.”