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Montana airports set records for firearms

Some of the items collected by TSA at airports in Bozeman and Billings
Orlinda Worthington
Some of the items collected by TSA at airports in Bozeman and Billings

Transportation Security Administration officers were in Bozeman January 30, to announce that Montana has set another record for airports statewide, and not a good one.

Yellowstone Public Radio’s Orlinda Worthington was there.

The TSA says the number of firearms discovered in carry-on luggage during routine screenings at Bozeman Yellowstone International went up by 60 percent in 2023, with 16 guns discovered. Billings was right behind with 15, followed by Missoula with 11.

Firearms must always be checked baggage on commercial airlines.

Lorie Dankers is the TSA spokesperson for the state of Montana. She says there can be stiff penalties for those who do not comply.

“When you bring a firearm to the security checkpoint, you can count on two things.You can count on having law enforcement interaction and you can count on being fined. Most likely several thousand dollars,” Dankers said.

The TSA can levy a civil penalty for violators. Dankers says most often it’s handled by local law enforcement.

“When a TSA officer sees the image of the firearm on the X ray screen, we notify airport law enforcement. Some agencies will actually arrest the passenger. Other other law enforcement agencies may interview the passenger and make a determination as to what would happen,” Dankers said.

The passenger can also lose precheck privileges and be placed on an enhanced security screening list for future travel.  If the image of a firearm is detected - which includes replicas and toy guns, TSA shuts down all screening until the situation is resolved, which slows down the process for all passengers.

“There’s really no excuse for bringing your firearm in carry-on luggage because there's a process by which you can travel with it. A lot of travelers do tell the officers that they simply forgot it was in your bag. But I would remind every single one of those individuals that the number one rule of firearm safety is know where it is at all times,” Dankers said.

The TSA reports that of all firearms detected at security checkpoints nationwide in 2023,
93% were loaded.

In Bozeman, I’m Orlinda Worthington.

Firearms are not the only self-protection items prohibited in the passenger area of commercial planes.

For a list of what is allowed and what is prohibited in carry-ons and checked luggage visit

Orlinda Worthington hosts “Morning Edition” weekdays on YPR. She brings 20 years of experience as Montana television news anchor, producer, and reporter.