TSA Finds 3 Times More Guns in Carry-Ons, Despite 75% Drop in Passengers

Transportation Security Administration K9 handler Steve Sanzillo pets his explosive detection dog Teddy during a demonstration at LaGuardia Airport on January 20, 2016 in the Queens Borough of New York City. (Photo: Bryan Thomas, Getty Images)
Transportation Security Administration K9 handler Steve Sanzillo pets his explosive detection dog Teddy during a demonstration at LaGuardia Airport on January 20, 2016 in the Queens Borough of New York City. (Photo: Bryan Thomas, Getty Images)

The Transportation Security Administration discovered roughly three times the number of firearms in carry-on bags last month in the U.S. compared to last year despite an immense drop in airline passengers due to the covid-19 pandemic.

TSA said its screeners had found “15.3 guns per million people” last month compared to “5.1 guns per million” in July 2019 even though the number of passengers has dropped by 75%, a statistic the Homeland Security branch termed “alarming.”

“TSA is diligently working to ensure our employees and passengers are safe and secure while travelling during a pandemic, and yet we are noticing a significant increase in loaded firearms coming into checkpoints,” TSA Administrator David Pekoske said in a statement. “Travellers must understand that firearms are prohibited items at airports and in the passenger cabins of aircraft. As hard as we are working to mitigate other risks at this time, no one should be introducing new ones.”

Pekoske said that “even more concerning” is that 80% of firearms discovered in airport checkpoints are loaded.

TSA guidelines state that passengers may transport unloaded firearms in a “locked hard-sided container,” but as checked baggage only. Firearms must be declared, secured firmly and locked inside their containers.

The recommended penalty for improperly packing an unloaded firearm starts at $US2,050 ($2,863) and starts at $US4,100 ($5,725) for a loaded gun. The statutory maximum fine is $US10,250 ($14,313) per violation.

TSA added:

Nationwide last year, 4,432 firearms were discovered in carry-on bags at checkpoints across the country, averaging about 12.1 firearms per day, approximately a 5% increase nationally in firearm discoveries from the total of 4,239 detected in 2018. Eighty-seven per cent of firearms detected at checkpoints last year were loaded.


Editor’s Note: Release dates within this article are based in the U.S., but will be updated with local Australian dates as soon as we know more.