TSA: Number of guns found at checkpoints in 2021 sets 20-year mark

WASHINGTON — A record number of guns have been detected at airport security checkpoints this year -- and there are still two months left in 2021.

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According to a news release from the Transportation Security Administration, the number of weapons found established a 20-year record despite fewer passengers traveling due to the coronavirus pandemic.

According to the release, by Oct. 3, TSA officers had stopped 4,495 airline passengers from carrying firearms onto their flights. That topped the previous mark of 4,432, set during all 12 months of 2019, the agency said.

Firearms were found at 248 airports across the U.S., according to USA Today. The most were found at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, with 391 passengers stopped, the newspaper reported. Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport was second with 232 and George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston was third at 168.

TSA officers discovered 11 firearms in carry-on bags per million passengers screened at airports so far in 2021. In 2019, officers found five firearms per million passengers.

The numbers do not include improperly packed firearms at checked baggage stations, toys, replicas, and BB guns, the TSA said.

“We’ve had many more incidences where there are passenger disturbances both in checkpoints and onboard aircraft. That makes it more important that there are no guns involved,” TSA Administrator David Pekoske told CNN.

According to the TSA, passengers may travel with firearms in checked baggage when they are unloaded and packed in a locked, hard-sided case. Passengers must notify officials and present the case with the firearm at the airline check-in counter. The weapons are transported with checked baggage and are placed in the aircraft’s cargo hold, according to TSA.

With the holiday season approaching, more firearms may be confiscated. Pekoske told CNN he believed the rising numbers reflect an American population that is increasingly armed.

“I think more people are carrying weapons, just generally across the country, and then whatever is happening across the country we see reflected in our checkpoints,” Pekoske told CNN. “As a passenger, I don’t want another passenger flying with me with a gun in their possession.”

To follow proper packing guidelines for firearms, check here.

The penalties for attempting to bring a firearm through a checkpoint begin at about $2,500 for an unloaded weapon and can rise to $10,000 for a loaded weapon, CNN reported.

The complete list of penalties is posted at TSA.gov.