A record 6,542 guns were seized by Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agents at airport security checkpoints in the United States last year. The number of guns intercepted at US airports has risen each year since 2010, with the exception of the pandemic-interrupted 2020.
“What we see in our checkpoints really reflects what we’re seeing in society, and in society there are more people carrying firearms nowadays,” TSA administrator David Pekoske told Associated Press (AP).
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However, while nefarious intentions cannot be ruled out in some cases, analysis of the spate of gun seizures shows that in most instances the individual simply forgot that they had a firearm on their person or in their luggage when flagged by security.
“It’s disruptive no matter what,” retired TSA agent Keith Jeffries told AP, adding that the discovery of a gun on an x-ray machine can vastly delay other passengers while the issue is dealt with. “It’s a dangerous, prohibited item and, let’s face it, you should know where your gun is at, for crying out loud.”
The potential action taken against a person attempting to carry a weapon past airport security, whether they know it’s in their possession or not, varies depending on state or local laws. Some can be arrested and have their gun confiscated, while others are permitted to pass a weapon to a companion not accompanying them on the flight.
The majority of firearms discovered at US airports last year were found in states with more lenient gun laws. Three airports in both Texas and Florida accounted for six of the ten airports which saw the most firearm interceptions last year.
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A recent study by the University of Chicago found that 46% of American households own at least one gun. The number of firearms in the United States is currently estimated to stand at around 466 million.
TSA Federal Security Director Arden Hudson warned Americans if they are going to travel with a gun, it must be in a checked bag, and they need to be sure “exactly what the gun laws are on each side of your trip.”