The Transportation Security Administration has intercepted a record number of guns at airport safety checkpoints this year, and an overwhelming majority of them were loaded.
In a statement released late last week, TSA revealed that as of 16 December, its officers had intercepted 6,301 firearms. Out of those, 88% were loaded. The number marks an increase of more than 300 from the 5,972 firearms that were detected in 2021. About 86% of the firearms confiscated last year were loaded.
The agency said it anticipates preventing a total of 6,600 firearms in carry-on bags from entering the secure area of airports by the end of 2022, a nearly 10% jump from last year’s numbers.
Since 2010, the number of firearms intercepted by TSA at airports has steadily increased, with the exception of 2020, when air travel fell significantly because of the coronavirus pandemic. From 2010 to 2019, the number of firearms detected by TSA at airport security checkpoints detected firearms increased from 1,123 to 4,432. Then, in 2020, the number dropped to 3,257 before increasing again almost twofold in two years.
“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,” TSA said in its statement.
In an attempt to reduce the number of guns at airport security checkpoints, the agency increased the maximum fine for a firearms violation from $13,910 to $14,950. TSA determines the fine amount for a violation based on each case’s circumstances, the agency said.
For passengers caught with guns in their possession, the agency said it would revoke their TSA PreCheck eligibility for five years, referring to a program that grants certain travelers expedited screening processes at airports.
“TSA may conduct enhanced screening for those passengers to ensure no other threats are present,” the agency’s statement added. “Depending on state or local law in the airport’s location, passengers who bring firearms to a checkpoint may be arrested by law enforcement.”
TSA administrator David Pekoske praised the agency’s officers, saying they do “excellent” work “preventing firearms from getting into the secure areas of airports and onboard aircraft”.
His statement continued: “Firearms are prohibited in carry-on bags at the checkpoint and onboard aircraft. 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.”
Passengers who are traveling by air and would like to take their guns are required to store their weapons in checked baggage and must follow proper packing regulations, the TSA said.
Those regulations include unloading and locking firearms in a hard-sided container. Additionally, only the passenger packing a gun in checked luggage should have the key or lock combination unless specifically asked for them by TSA officers.
Gun parts and accessories that are prohibited in carry-on bags include magazines, clips, bolts and firing pins.
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