More Guns Found in Carry-On Bags Than Ever Before, TSA Reports

With just two weeks to go until the new year, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has found a record number of firearms at security checkpoints across different airports.

Increasing Firearms Numbers

This year, as of the 16th of December, the TSA intercepted a record-breaking 6,301 firearms in passenger carry-on bags. This is a significant increase from the previous record of 5,972 in 2021, up by 10%. In 2021, about 86% of the seized firearms were loaded. Based on these figures and rising post-covid travel numbers, the agency has predicted to stop around 6,600 guns next year.

Regardless of differing state laws, bringing a gun with you as part of your carry-on luggage is illegal. Nevertheless, there has been a steady increase in confiscated firearms since 2010.

Excluding 2020 when air travel suffered detrimental effects due to the pandemic, the number of guns seen at security checkpoints has grown. More specifically, between 2010 and 2019, the figure jumped from 1,123 to 4,432. The number dropped to 3,257 in 2020 but is now higher than ever.

TSA said in a statement, “Firearm possession laws vary by state and local government, but firearms are never allowed in carry-on bags at any TSA security checkpoint, even if a passenger has a concealed weapon permit.”

Passengers are only allowed to travel with guns if they are unloaded, packed into checked luggage, and locked in a hard-sided container. They must also be declared at the check-in counter.

Passengers queue for TSA standard screening. A sign reads 'Do not bring your firearm through the checkpoint'
It is illegal to bring a gun in carry-on luggage in every US state | Ted Shaffrey/AP

A variety of reasons

The news comes amid rises in air travel as the world reopens after the pandemic and a surge in gun sales in America.

Dr Sheldon H. Jacobson, a professor of Computer Science at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and an expert on aviation security, also believes that due to some passengers having a concealed weapon permit, there may have been some confusion. He suggested that some travellers may not know the exact rules surrounding bringing firearms into a checkpoint. He said, “The majority of people are not doing it with malicious intent; they’re simply forgetting.”

A spokesperson for the TSA, named David Fitz, stated that the most common reason given by those caught with a firearm is “’ I forgot it was in the bag’ or ‘someone else packed my bag for me.’”

Mr Fitz also explained that gun interceptions were more common in “parts of the country where open carry and concealed weapons permits are higher,”. This applies to many Southern states in America.

Possessing a concealed weapons permit (CCW) is the only means by which an ordinary citizen can carry a loaded or unloaded firearm around in public.

A stronger deterrent

In the wake of such figures, officials have been prompted to increase the maximum fine for a firearm violation to $14,950, nearly $1000 more than the previous fine.

TSA administrator, David Peoske, said,

“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.”

A debate regarding how to solve the issue occurred at a congressional hearing this year where Jason Wallis, the president of the Airport Law Enforcement Agencies Network and the police chief of the Port of Portland in Oregon, supported the increase of fines. Balram Bheodari, general manager of Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, was also in agreement.

Do you find the increasing figures alarming? Let us know in the comments.

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