Transportation Security Administration officials are reporting record numbers of guns caught at Baltimore and Washington airports so far this year.

As of this month, TSA officers at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport have caught 36 guns at checkpoints, topping last year’s record of 35, according to a release. Officers at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport have caught 30 guns at checkpoints, also a record.

The firearms were spotted during the routine screening of carry-on items at the airports’ checkpoints.

John Busch, the TSA’s federal security director at Reagan National, said it’s “disappointing” to see travelers attempt to continue to bring guns though checkpoints, creating a potentially dangerous environment. The most common excuse is someone says they forgot their loaded gun was with them, he added.

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“Responsible gun owners know where their guns are and they know not to bring them to a checkpoint,” said Busch in the release. “We have no issues with passengers who pack their firearms properly to be transported on their flight in their checked baggage, but bringing a loaded gun to a checkpoint is not the way to do it.”

In addition to potential criminal arrests or citations, travelers face stiff federal civil penalties for bringing guns to a security checkpoint. TSA evaluates each gun incident on a case-by-case basis.

Guns can be transported on a flight if they are unloaded, packed in a locked, hard-sided case and declared to the airline, according to TSA. Airlines store guns permitted to travel with checked baggage in the belly of the plane and never in the cabin.

“Prior to traveling, individuals who want to transport their firearm should do some homework and check gun regulations at their destination to ensure they are in compliance with all local and state laws,” Busch said.

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So far this year, TSA officers have stopped more than 5,000 firearms at airport checkpoints nationwide. The agency is on pace to top last year’s record of 6,542 guns caught at airports, according to the release.

penelope.blackwell@thebaltimorebanner.com