TSA recovers record number of firearms in first nine months of 2021

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The U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) announced Wednesday that its officers had detected a record number of firearms at airport security checkpoints this year. 

The tally of firearm catches at checkpoints set a 20-year record in the first nine months of 2021 – even with fewer passengers traveling due to the COVID-19 pandemic

TSA REPORTS LOWEST NUMBER OF TRAVELERS SCREENED IN SINGLE DAY SINCE MAY

In a release detailing the news, the agency said that by October 3, 2021, TSA officers had stopped 4,495 airline passengers from carrying firearms onto their flights.

The previous record of firearms caught at checkpoints was 4,432 over the full calendar year 2019. 

11 firearms were discovered in carry-on bags at airport checkpoints per million passengers screened thus far in 2021. 

That number compares to just five firearms per million passengers in 2019.

“The number of firearms that our TSA officers are stopping at airport checkpoints is alarming,” TSA Administrator David Pekoske said in a statement. “Firearms, particularly loaded firearms, introduce an unnecessary risk at checkpoints, have no place in the passenger cabin of an airplane, and represent a very costly mistake for the passengers who attempt to board a flight with them.”

Firearms were discovered at 248 airports across the country, with the most at Georgia’s Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

Improperly packed firearms at checked baggage stations, toys, replicas and BB guns were excluded from the data.

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The administration notes that passengers can follow proper packing guidance for firearms in checked baggage and declare them to their airline at check-in. 

When passengers bring firearms to airport checkpoints, the TSA said it will assess a civil penalty that varies by the number of previous offenses and whether the firearm was loaded at the time. 

TSA PreCheck members caught with a firearm at a TSA checkpoint may lose expedited screening privileges for three years or more.

Undated handout photo from the TSA blog shows handguns that were confiscated at the agency’s checkpoints from from various airports throughout the country.  (REUTERS/Transportation Security Administration/Handout )

Passengers may travel with firearms in checked baggage as long as they are unloaded and packed in a locked, hard-sided case and the passenger must declare and present the case with the firearm at the airline check-in counter, as well as inform the airline representative of their intention to travel with the firearms. 

Firearms are not allowed in the passenger cabin of an airplane – including for travelers with a concealed weapon permit.

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The TSA noted that firearm possession laws vary by state and local government. and recommends that travelers know laws for each point of travel prior to departure to “ensure they transport firearms in accordance with applicable law.”

Additionally, airlines may have other requirements for traveling with firearms and ammunition and the administration advises travelers to contact their airline regarding firearm and ammunition carriage policies before arriving at the airport.

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