After witnessing an uptick in customers trying to board flights with firearms in their luggage last year, Lehigh Valley International Airport hosted the TSA on Thursday to remind travelers about the steps they need to follow to legally bring a gun on a commercial flight.

Since Jan. 1, 2018, eight passengers have tried to board flights out of LVIA while carrying a firearm on them or with a gun illegally stashed in their luggage. That does not include six people who improperly tried to declare their weapons before boarding or a Florida man who tried to board a flight with a disassembled grenade launcher and a replica grenade.

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This photo provided by the Transportation Security Administration shows a disassembled grenade launcher and replica grenade that TSA agents spotted in a passenger's checked bag at Lehigh Valley Airport.

This photo provided by the Transportation Security Administration shows a disassembled grenade launcher and replica grenade that TSA agents spotted in a passenger’s checked bag at Lehigh Valley Airport. (AP)

The incidents led the airport to request the information session from the TSA. Airport spokesman Colin Riccobon said the incidents inconvenience all passengers passing through the security checkpoint and can result in a hefty fine. A citation for a first-time offender carries a $4,000 penalty.

“We felt it was imperative we find a way to work with the Transportation Security Administration to have an educational moment to share how to safely travel with a firearm,” Riccobon said.

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The number of people flying nationwide has been growing the last few years, leading to more and more instances of TSA agents flagging firearms in luggage, TSA spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein said. In 2018, 4,239 guns were detected in security checkpoints across the country. That number is a 277% spike from 2010, when 1,123 firearms were detected, according to TSA figures.

“We see the trend going the wrong way nationwide,” she said.

How to legally fly with a firearm on a commercial flight

The firearm must be unloaded and locked in a hard-sided case.

Any ammunition for the weapon must be in its original packaging and in the carrying case with the firearm. Cheap pistol cases sell for $10 online, but nicer, more expensive options are available.

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Unloaded firearms are permitted on commercial flights if they're packed in a hard-side case, as shown, and checked in at the airline counter.

Unloaded firearms are permitted on commercial flights if they’re packed in a hard-side case, as shown, and checked in at the airline counter. (Kristen Harrison/The Morning Call)

The locks must be able to prevent someone from prying open the case and accessing the weapon or ammo. For larger cases, like for a rifle or shotgun, multiple locks may be required. While vendors sell locks that TSA agents can open with master keys, passengers do not need to use these locks for their gun cases.

Larger cases, for rifles or shotguns, may need multiple locks.

Larger cases, for rifles or shotguns, may need multiple locks. (Kristen Harrison/The Morning Call)

Present the case to your airline’s check-in counter

Passengers traveling with their firearms will need to declare them before going through the security checkpoints. If you’ve put your unloaded firearm in a locked case and stored your ammunition appropriately, you will be asked to fill out a document the size of an index card. If you’ve not followed these steps, police will likely be called.

Gun owners will be asked to fill out a form, top left, when they check their unloaded weapon. TSA agents will label cases with firearms.

Gun owners will be asked to fill out a form, top left, when they check their unloaded weapon. TSA agents will label cases with firearms. (Kristen Harrison/The Morning Call)

Once you’ve met all the steps and filled out the correct documents, an airline representative will take possession of the weapon while you continue through to the normal security checkpoints.

Never attempt to bring a firearm into the cabin

In most most instances, people detained for bringing a gun into the security checkpoint claim they forgot it was with them, Farbstein said. That excuse tends not to fly well, especially considering that 86% of guns detected at security checkpoints last year were loaded, she said.

“You should never have a firearm in the cabin of a plane. Even a replica can cause a panic,” she said.

Morning Call reporter Tom Shortell can be reached at 610-820-6168 or tshortell@mcall.com.