The Transportation Security Administration found nearly 6,000 firearms at airport security checkpoints last year, the most ever recorded. So far, 2022 is on pace to be another record-breaking year. As of mid-September, more than 4,600 guns have been discovered by TSA agents at airports across the United States – and nearly 90% of them were loaded.
While it is not illegal to fly with firearms, there are strict rules regarding their transport. At a minimum, guns must be unloaded, locked in a hard-sided case, declared to the airline, and stowed with checked baggage.
The regulations surrounding firearms on commercial flights are straightforward and critical to ensuring safe air travel. Yet, at airports across the country, TSA agents stop an average of about 17 firearms per day at security checkpoints.
24/7 Wall St. reviewed TSA press releases to identify the airports where the most people have attempted to fly with firearms in 2022. In each of the nearly two dozen airports on this list, there have been at least three instances where passengers have been caught with guns at a security checkpoint. We also reviewed the total number of departing passengers in 2021 at each airport with data from the Federal Aviation Administration.
Rising instances of travelers attempting to bring firearms through airport security coincide with a surge in gun sales. Driven in part by first-time buyers, gun sales hit all-time highs in the U.S. during the pandemic. Some experts attribute the growing number of firearms detected by TSA to uninformed and inexperienced gun owners. (Here is a look at the states where people buy the most guns.)
Indeed, many passengers who are caught with guns at airports have no apparent malicious intent. They often claim they either forgot they had a gun in their possession or were unaware of the rules regarding air travel and firearms.
Regardless of the explanation, firearm infractions at airports can come with severe penalties. The TSA can levy fines of up to nearly $14,000. Violations may also lead to criminal prosecution, depending on state and local laws.
It is important to note that the incidents tallied on this list are only those that were reported in the media – and not all cases involving airport firearm infractions receive media coverage, due in part to variations in state law. In New York, for example, failure to comply with TSA firearm regulations often results in arrest. Meanwhile, in Texas, travelers are often allowed to board their flight if they leave the airport and lock their guns in their car – even though a vehicle is never a safe place to store a firearm. Here is a look at the states where the most guns are stolen.
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