(NEXSTAR) – A traveler at New Jersey’s Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) was stopped at a TSA checkpoint last week after officers discovered a handgun in his carry-on bag. But this wasn’t just any handgun — it was a handgun somewhat disguised as a belt buckle.
Officers at the Terminal C checkpoint discovered the item tucked inside two separate zippered cases following an X-ray of the passenger’s bag on June 11. TSA officers initially thought the item to be a “large belt buckle with a replica gun on it,” but found it to be “an actual real firearm that could pop out of its decorative metallic oval frame,” according to a press release.
The buckle also appears to be embossed with the words “Freedom Arms,” which is the name of a firearm company in Wyoming.
The traveler, from Ridgefield Park, New Jersey, told authorities that he forgot the gun was in his bag. Officers with the Port Authority Police were called to the checkpoint to confiscate the prohibited item and place the man under arrest.
“Claiming to forget that you have a gun with you is inexcusable,” said Thomas Carter, TSA’s Federal Security Director for New Jersey, in a press release. “If you own a gun you need to know where it is at all times.”
The TSA also stressed that guns are not permitted in carry-on baggage, but can be transported in checked baggage when properly declared and packed.
Recently, the TSA has also noted an uptick in incidents of passengers trying to bring firearms through security, even despite lower traveler throughput due to the pandemic. In 2020 alone, the agency confiscated 10 firearms for every million passengers — or approximately “twice as many” as had been confiscated at U.S. checkpoints in 2019.