Transportation Security Administration agents found a loaded .25-caliber handgun in the carry-on bag belonging to a Maryland man at a BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport checkpoint on Tuesday — setting a new record with 27 guns caught at the airport in 2019, officials said.
An average of 24 guns per year were confiscated at Baltimore/Washington International from 2016 to 2018, according to TSA data. The airport’s previous record, set in 2017, was 26.
James Gordon Pitcher, 56, of Sparks, was arrested on weapons charges in the incident Tuesday, according to Maryland Transportation Authority police. The handgun was loaded with six bullets, including one in the chamber, when it was discovered in the security checkpoint X-Ray machine, TSA spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein said.
Pitcher declined to comment Wednesday.
He told TSA agents and responding Maryland Transportation Authority police he had taken the gun to a shooting range and forgotten that he still had it with him, Farbstein said. Pitcher was charged with three handgun violations and released on his own recognizance, according to court records.
“TSA recommends that travelers who shoot firearms at a range use a different bag for the range than the one that they use to bring to airports to help ensure that no prohibited or illegal items are left inside,” Farbstein said in a statement. “It is best to start with an empty duffle bag, knapsack, roller bag, messenger bag, handbag or suitcase and then pack it before heading to the airport.”
Passenger security is BWI’s highest priority, spokesman Jonathan Dean said.
“We work closely with our security and law enforcement partners to help ensure a safe, efficient travel experience for our customers,” Dean said in a statement. “We strongly recommend that travelers check their bags before heading to the airport to ensure they do not attempt to travel with firearms or other prohibited items.”
Contrary to popular belief, it is legal to bring a gun on a plane. But the TSA requires the weapon to be unloaded; packed separately from ammunition in a locked, hard-sided case; declared to the airline, and transported in checked luggage, not in carry-on.
More than 4,200 firearms — an average of nearly a dozen a day — were found in carry-on bags at checkpoints across the country last year, roughly a 7% increase from 2017, the TSA said. Of those, 86% were loaded and more than a third had a bullet in the chamber.