TSA Reports Record Number Of Gun Interceptions At U.S. Airports

Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officers said Friday the agency intercepted a record number of firearms at airport security checkpoints this year, a nearly 10% increase over 2021’s record level.

Officials reported the agency stopped 6,301 firearms from crossing through secure areas of airports since the beginning of 2022 and anticipates detaining approximately 300 more before the new year. Of those firearms, more than 88% were loaded, the agency said.

The number of firearm interceptions surpassed the previous record of 5,972 firearms detected in 2021.

“I applaud the work of our Transportation Security Officers who do an excellent job of preventing firearms from getting into the secure area of airports, and onboard aircraft,” TSA Administrator David Pekoske said in a news release. “Firearms are prohibited in carry-on bags at the checkpoint and onboard aircraft.”

Although firearm possession laws vary by state and local government, passengers are prohibited from carrying guns in carry-on bags at any TSA security checkpoint, even if a passenger has a concealed weapon permit. However, the agency says passengers may travel with a firearm — but it must be unloaded and locked in a hard-sided container and transported as checked baggage only and declared each time they present it for transport as checked baggage.

The agency said that TSA had increased the maximum civil penalty for a firearms violation to $14,950 to reduce the threat of firearms at checkpoints.

“When a passenger brings a firearm to the checkpoint, this consumes significant security resources and poses a potential threat to transportation security, in addition to being very costly for the passenger,” Pekoske said.

According to the agency, TSA firearm catches have increased since 2010, rising from just 1,123. However, the number of interceptions dipped in 2020 by more than 1,000 amid the COVID pandemic, when the industry took a massive hit after non-essential air travel nearly came to a complete stop.

Sheldon H. Jacobson, a professor of computer science at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and an expert on aviation security, told The New York Times, “the majority of people are not doing it with malicious intent.”

“They’re simply forgetting,” Dr. Jacobson said, adding the gun sales increasing nationwide among first-time gun buyers could explain the rise in interceptions.

Last year, the Times reported data from Northeastern University and the Harvard Injury Control Research Center that showed about a fifth of all Americans bought firearms for the first time, with about 39 percent of all American households owning guns.

Comparing the number of Americans owning a firearm from 2016, a General Social Survey, a public opinion poll conducted by a research center at the University of Chicago, showed that the number increased from 32 percent.

David Fitz, a spokesman for the TSA, told the Times that “the most common reason given by passengers bringing a firearm into a checkpoint is ‘I forgot it was in the bag’ or ‘Someone else packed my bag for me.’”

Fitz added that most “parts of the country where open carry and concealed weapons permits are higher” trend typically in Southern states.

The agency said although some airlines may have additional requirements for traveling with firearms and ammunition, passengers traveling by air who wish to transport firearms must do so in checked baggage by following proper packing guidance for firearms in checked baggage.

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