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TSA Stops Three Times More Guns Compared to Last Year

TSA line at DCA (Photo: TSA)

The U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) announced on Monday that its security checkpoints have intercepted three times more firearms in carry-on bags than it had at this point last year.

In a press release issued, the agency reported that in the month of July, TSA officers detected 15.3 guns per million people compared to 5.1 guns per million people screened during July 2019. So while the agency hasn’t seized quite as many guns, the rate at which it is doing so has skyrocketed.

“TSA is diligently working to ensure our employees and passengers are safe and secure while traveling during a pandemic, and yet we are noticing a significant increase in loaded firearms coming into checkpoints,” said TSA Administrator David Pekoske.

TSA data shows that 80% of guns found were loaded and were a potential threat or at risk for an accidental discharge, a lower rate than last year.

Last year, 4,432 guns were identified during airport security screenings, averaging about 12 guns per day nationwide. In 2018, 4,239 guns were intercepted by security agents.

Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport had the most finds of any airport in the U.S. TSA agents at the airport stopped 27 firearms in the month of July. Denver (13), Dallas-Fort Worth (13), Nashville (12), Dallas Love Field(9) and Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental (9) round out the top six airports with the highest gun intercepts in July. A total of 304 guns were found nationwide in July.

Penalties for bringing firearms and other weapons to the security area are steep. Gun owners are usually arrested while investigations are conducted. The recommended civil penalty for an unloaded firearm starts at $2,050, and penalties for loaded guns start at $4,100. The penalty can go up to $10,250 per violation depending on circumstances. In addition to financial civil penalties, people who violate TSA’s firearm rules will have their trusted traveler status and TSA PreCheck expedited screening benefits revoked.

TSA encounters with firearms in luggage don’t appear to be slowing in August. 

TSA officers caught a Westmoreland County, Penn. man with a 9 mm handgun loaded with five bullets in his carry-on bag at Pittsburgh International Airport on Aug. 7. It was the second gun caught by TSA officers at Pittsburgh within a three-day span. Officers also caught a North Carolina man with a 9 mm handgun loaded with seven bullets in his carry-on bag at the Watertown International Airport security checkpoint on Aug. 9, and a Georgia resident was arrested when a 9 mm handgun loaded with five bullets on Aug. 8 was found in his carry-on bag at New York’s LaGuardia Airport.

Rick Shideler


  • Rick Shideler

    Rick is a retired airline maintenance professional with over 40 years experience in commercial, corporate and military aviation sectors. Rick holds an FAA Airframe & Powerplant (A&P) and a FCC General RadioTelephone Licenses. Rick is a veteran of the United States Air Force and has served in multiple leadership positions including Director of Maintenance for a large corporate aviation firm, airline Director of Engineering and has chaired multiple aviation maintenance safety and reliability industry committees. Rick took his first airplane ride at six months old and became an airline geek shortly thereafter.

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