US Airports Record Surge In Passengers With Guns
An assault rifle and 163 rounds of ammunition taken from a man about to board a plane in New Orleans on Valentine’s Day is an example of a trend identified by US officials.
In some parts of the country, more passengers are attempting to bring their guns through airport security.
While 2022 was a record year for guns found at US airport checkpoints, the TSA says, 2023 may well beat it.
Officers in Seattle, Washington DC and Indianapolis have all raised the alarm.
The TSA intercepted a record 6,542 guns at airport checkpoints across the US last year. Some 88% of them were loaded with ammunition.
Travellers are allowed to pack unloaded firearms inside checked luggage that typically goes into an aircraft’s hold. They are also required tell the airline they intend to travel with weapons at check-in.
But guns are not allowed in carry-on bags or passenger cabins, even if a passenger has a concealed weapon permit.
The TSA intercepts guns at airport security checkpoints and reports some airports are seeing a surge in numbers in some places that are ahead of comparable figures last year.
The 14 February discovery in New Orleans was especially notable due to the volume of ammunition discovered- it was the second gun intercepted at the city’s airport that day.
In January, Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport saw three guns come through a TSA checkpoint in a single week. Indianapolis International Airport detected four separate loaded guns in one week.
“It’s disturbing that so many Indianapolis passengers have made the irresponsible decision to bring a firearm to the checkpoint in just the first month of the year,” says Aaron Batt, TSA’s Federal Security Director for Indiana.
In Seattle, TSA officials counted 11 firearms discovered before the end of January, up from seven discovered by the same point in 2022.
“This is not a new problem,” according to Brian Schihabel, TSA Federal Security Director for Nebraska. “But it is one that must be addressed since we have reached an unacceptable level of firearms coming through our security checkpoints.” He hopes the growing numbers serve as a wake-up call for those who choose to travel with firearms.
Last year, the TSA raised the maximum civil penalty for a firearms violation to $14,950 (£12,419). Violators may also be arrested, have their weapons confiscated, and have their TSA PreCheck, the ability to skip normal security lines, revoked for at least five years.
Yet numbers continue to go up. The TSA has intercepted more firearms every year since 2010 except for 2020, when the pandemic slowed travel worldwide.
Experts suspect part of the problem may be simple to explain.
“What we see in our checkpoints really reflects what we’re seeing in society,” TSA administrator David Pekoske told the Associated Press. “In society there are more people carrying firearms nowadays.”