TSA officers finding three times more guns in carry-ons despite major drop in travel

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Nationwide TSA officers say they’ve found three times the number of guns in carry-on bags last month compared to July 2019.

But, this spike is happening when travel is down significantly because of the pandemic.

“Anywhere from num-chuks, hammers, axes, toy guns, bowling pins, credit card with a knife hidden inside,” said Kevin McCarthy, Assistant Federal Security Director at the Memphis International Airport.

McCarthy said that’s a snapshot of what officers have found inside carryon bags within the last six months at the Memphis International Airport.

“We collect about 50 to 60 pounds of knives every single month,” he added.

McCarthy said they’re also continuing to find guns in carry-ons even though travel is down.

From January to mid-August, TSA officers screened 1.5 million people last year in Memphis alone but that number has dropped by more than 55 percent during the pandemic.

But TSA officers have found 29 guns so far, this year and that’s almost in line with the same as last year when officers found 34 guns.

“We’re right at the national average about 86 percent of those were loaded and about a quarter of those had rounds in the chamber,” said McCarthy.

Often, McCarthy said it’s an accident and someone forgot the gun was in their carry-on.

But it’s an accident that isn’t cheap. McCarthy said you could face a misdemeanor citation all the way up to felony arrest.

“Besides the criminal action, TSA will pursue civil action could be a fine of up to $13,000 and you’re probably going to miss your flight that day,” he said.

Related: Loaded firearm discovered at Memphis International Airport checkpoint, TSA says

TSA officers say traffic is increasing at the airport. They had their busiest day since March last Friday, August 7 and they anticipate another busy day on Friday with an estimated 3,800 travelers.

TSA officers say you can travel with a gun but it has to be secured properly.

“The firearm has to be unloaded, it has to be placed in a hard-sided locked case and if you have any ammunition, it has to be in a case and when you get to the airport, you have to declare it to airline and then do some paperwork,” said McCarthy.

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