In 2022, the United States saw an unprecedented spike in confiscated firearms passing through airport security – with TSA agents seizing over 18 guns a day.
This dramatic increase signals the surge of gun ownership throughout US society and emphasizes why greater vigilance is necessary to safeguard travelers from potential threats that accompany this new reality.
David Pekoske, Transportation Security Administration Administrator, said, “what we see in our checkpoints really reflects what we’re seeing in society, and in society, there are more people carrying firearms nowadays.”
While 2020 threw a wrench in the trend, airport security has been intercepting more and more weapons every year since 2010. Claiming to have forgotten they had guns on them is common among those caught with one.
Experts emphasize that even just one firearm, if used by someone threatening, could cause immense damage and danger at an airport or aboard a plane alike.
A @TSA officer spotted this loaded gun in a man's carry-on bag at @NorfolkAirport on Monday. It's 2023 and guns remain prohibited past airport checkpoints. No change there. Have a concealed carry permit or are enrolled in TSA PreCheck? This applies to you too! No guns on planes. pic.twitter.com/UuNhGjy868
— Lisa Farbstein, TSA Spokesperson (@TSA_Northeast) February 21, 2023
Cities with the most gun interceptions in 2022
Despite an array of varying gun laws across the United States, TSA Administrator David Pekoske has noticed a concerning pattern: guns turning up in unlikely places.
From California to Maine and everywhere in between – especially higher-trafficked airports like those found throughout Texas, Florida, Tennessee, and beyond – travelers have been racking up weapon confiscations.
The head of TSA has noted that travelers often plead, “I forgot!” when guns are intercepted.
TSA agents seized 6,542 guns, almost all of which were loaded, at U.S. airports in 2022. On average they confiscated 18 a day which is the highest ever recorded, the agency said. pic.twitter.com/RTuxuXo01Y
— Daily Loud (@DailyLoud) February 20, 2023
Varying laws and consequent penalties
Attempting to board a plane with a weapon can land travelers in hot water, as TSA staffers are trained to spot firearms when they appear on X-ray machines.
Depending on local laws, the consequences for carrying an unauthorized gun through airport security could range from confiscation of the firearm and possible arrest to simply being allowed to walk away and have an uninterrupted journey.
Of course, unloaded guns must still be put properly into checked baggage if allowed by airline policies.
With the increasing number of guns being confiscated at airport checkpoints, the TSA ratcheted up their penalties last year to a maximum fine of $14,950.
In addition to hefty fines and potentially missing flights, those caught with illegal items such as guns also lose their PreCheck status for five years – an increase from three since new rules were put in place a year ago.
Those who succeed in bringing weapons into secure areas, or even attempt to, face federal charges due to strict laws created by government officials determined not only to make air travel safer but to hold those that threaten its safety accountable.
“It’s disruptive no matter what,” retired TSA official Keith Jeffries. “It’s a dangerous, prohibited item and, let’s face it; you should know where your gun is at, for crying out loud.”