Saturday, July 13, 2024

Firearm detections up at ILM, down across NC overall

Wilmington International Airport firearm screenings are up . (Port City Daily/File)

WILMINGTON — Despite statewide firearm screenings decreasing at airports overall, Wilmington International experienced an uptick in 2023.

It’s illegal to carry firearms in carry-on luggage, regardless if a traveler has a concealed weapons permit. Any person traveling with one must ensure it’s properly
stowed with checked baggage, which means unloaded and packed in a locked, hard-sided case. Airline carriers may have additional requirements for those bringing firearms and ammunition as well.

In 2022, Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officers screened roughly five firearms from passengers traveling from ILM — that’s out of a little more than 1 million people. In 2023, it’s up by around 60% to eight firearms screened in 2023.

Statewide, TSA assessed roughly 23.1 million travelers departing from airports in North Carolina. That was a 17% increase from 2022. It detected one firearm for every 98,182 passengers screened, according to a press release. This is higher than the nationwide statistic: one for every 127,447 passengers screened.

The TSA releases numbers annually on firearms screenings. Nationally in 2023, it assessed roughly 6,700 firearms — up from just more than 6,500 last year — of which 93% were loaded. In North Carolina, it resulted in 236 firearms in travelers’ carry-on luggage, down from the 250 found in 2022.

“We are still seeing far too many firearms at TSA checkpoints, and what’s particularly concerning is the amount of them loaded, presenting an unnecessary risk to everyone at the TSA checkpoint,” TSA Administrator David Pekoske said in a press release.

The agency clocked the largest city in the state, Charlotte, at an all-time high with 124 firearms. Passengers carrying firearms through the Queen City’s Charlotte Douglas International Airport have been going up consistently since 2020, from 55 to 106 (2021) to 117 (2022).

If TSA catches a firearm screening, local airport law enforcement is contacted to remove the weapon from the X-ray tunnel and contact the traveler. The repercussions can be handled in various ways and is up to the acting agency. Passengers may face potential criminal citation or civil penalties or be arrested.

TSA assess a civil penalty based on whether the firearm was loaded and if ammunition was accessible. The maximum is nearly $15,000 per violation. Breaking TSA rules can also lead to its “Pre-Check” eligibility being revoked and may require passengers to endure enhanced screening in the future.

Below is a breakdown from TSA on firearm discoveries in the past five years at North Carolina airports:

Airport20192020202120222023
Charlotte Douglas Int’l (CLT)7455106117124
Raleigh-Durham Int’l (RDU)70331007476
Piedmont Triad Int’l (GSO)186121515
Asheville Regional (AVL)13515258
Wilmington Int’l (ILM)93658
Fayetteville Regional (FAY)32432
Coastal Carolina Regional (EWN)40232
Albert J. Ellis Airport (OAJ)21551
Concord-Padgett Regional (JQF)10430
Pitt-Greenville Airport (PGV)00000
North Carolina total:194105254250236
Nationwide total:4,4323,2575,9726,5426,737

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Shea Carver
Shea Carver
Shea Carver is the editor in chief at Port City Daily. A UNCW alumna, Shea worked in the print media business in Wilmington for 22 years before joining the PCD team in October 2020. She specializes in arts coverage — music, film, literature, theatre — the dining scene, and can often be tapped on where to go, what to do and who to see in Wilmington. When she isn’t hanging with her pup, Shadow Wolf, tending the garden or spinning vinyl, she’s attending concerts and live theater.

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