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Airports Saw Record Number of Guns. Most Were Loaded

Vast majority of 6.7K firearms intercepted at US airports in 2023 were loaded, agency says
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 12, 2024 8:59 AM CST
Nearly All 6.7K Guns Found by TSA in 2023 Were Loaded
This handout photo released June 7, 2018, shows a handgun that was one of 30 firearms found in May 2018 at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport security checkpoints.   (TSA via AP)

In 2022, the Transportation Security Administration intercepted more than 6,500 firearms at security checkpoints at airports around the nation—a record figure. The TSA has now broken that record, finding 6,737 guns last year, the highest number seen since the agency was formed after 9/11, reports CBS News. And that's not the only "concerning" stat, in the words of TSA Administrator David Pekoske: The vast majority of the firearms found in 2023—93%—were loaded. Three airports in particular claimed more than 1,100 of last year's found guns: Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (451), Dallas Fort Worth International Airport (378), and George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston (311).

Still, the overall interception rate dropped: Last year, the TSA found 7.8 firearms per million passengers, after screening 858 million passengers in total. The year before, that figure was 8.6 firearms per million passengers. "We are still seeing far too many firearms at TSA checkpoints, and what's particularly concerning is the amount of them loaded, presenting an unnecessary risk to everyone at the TSA checkpoint," Pekoske says in a statement. The main reason people give when caught trying to get through security with guns: They simply forgot the firearm was in their carry-on, per NPR. "It also reflects a wider trend towards increased gun ownership and state and local laws," a TSA spokesperson notes.

Pekoske reminds everyone that only unloaded guns can be brought on the plane, and only if they're properly stored in checked luggage and the passenger has notified the airline that they've packed a firearm. "Firearms and ammunition are strictly prohibited in carry-on baggage," Pekoske notes. It should be noted that TSA itself doesn't technically confiscate the firearms they find: Instead, they call local law enforcement officers, who can then arrest or cite the gun-toting passenger. TSA can also fine the passenger up to nearly $15,000. (More guns stories.)

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