HENRICO COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) marked a record year in 2022 for the number of firearms detected at security checkpoints at Richmond International Airport (RIC).

By the end of 2022, TSA officials reported catching 24 guns at RIC — 92% of which were loaded — setting a new record in the administration’s 20-year history at the airport.

“The most common excuse we hear is, ‘I forgot I had my gun with me,’ and if you’re a responsible gun owner, you should know where your gun is at all times,” TSA spokesperson Lisa Farbstein said. “The second most common excuse is, ‘My husband packed my bag,’ or, ‘My wife packed my bags,’ and none of those excuses fly with us.”

As of Wednesday, Feb. 8, one gun had been detected at RIC’s TSA security checkpoints in 2023. However, Thursday morning, officials said that another firearm was found.

“If you forget where it’s at or, ‘I forgot it was in the bag,’ then that tells me that you’re not practicing safety and security, not only for yourself, but for your family or the traveling public or anybody else,” TSA Federal Security Director Robin “Chuck” Burke said. “Our primary thing is effectiveness, and safety and security.”

Nationwide, TSA reported catching 6,542 firearms at 262 out of 430 airport security checkpoints last year, with 88% of those loaded. Farbstein said that such spikes vary depending on gun culture in the area.

“The airport with the most firearms last year was Atlanta. They had nearly 500 firearms show up because they have such liberal weapons laws,” she said. “Let’s say you’ve got a permit to carry a firearm here in Virginia. You’re flying to JFK or LaGuardia, and now you’re ready to come back and you’re in another jurisdiction, and you don’t have a permit to [carry] there in New York. You’ll be arrested.”

With the institution of higher maximum civil penalties in recent months, passengers attempting to bring a firearm through a TSA security checkpoint could face up to a nearly $15,000 fine.

Passengers are permitted to travel with guns in checked baggage if they are properly stored and declared at their airline ticket counter. Firearms must be unloaded and placed in a hard-sided, locked case, with the ammunition in its original container.

The prohibition for bringing guns to checkpoints applies to travelers with or without concealed carry permits.

“The TSA does conduct tests, but these are not tests. These are real passengers who are showing up with real firearms,” Farbstein said. “It’s going to be a lot cheaper for you to pay a checked bag fee than it is for you to have to pay a possible criminal penalty, risk losing your firearm altogether, which probably costs you hundreds of dollars, and then, of course, you’re going to be facing thousands of dollars in a civil penalty from TSA.”