The U.S. Transportation Safety Administration recorded a 20-year high of 4,495 airline passengers attempting to carry firearms onto their flights in just the first nine months of 2020. File Photo by Gary C. Caskey/UPI | License Photo
Oct. 13 (UPI) -- The U.S. Transportation Safety Administration said Wednesday it has recorded a 20-year high in firearms detected at airport security checkpoints with three months left in 2021.
As of Oct. 3, TSA officers had stopped 4,495 airline passengers from carrying firearms onto flights, exceeding the previous record of 4,432 firearms detected at checkpoints throughout the full calendar year 2019.
Officers found 11 firearms in carry-on bags at airport checkpoints per million passengers screened so far this year, up from five per million passengers in 2019.
The increase in firearm detections also comes as travel numbers have yet to fully recover from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic with TSA reporting 1.7 million passengers screened Tuesday compared to 2.31 million on the same day in 2019.
"The number of firearms that our TSA officers are stopping at airport checkpoints is alarming," TSA Administrator David Pekoske said. "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."
The TSA noted that passengers may travel with firearms in checked baggage if they are unloaded and packed in a locked, hard-sided case, but they must first declare and present the case at the airline check-in counter and inform the airline representative that they intend to travel with a firearm.
The rise in firearm detections also comes as the TSA has reported a high volume of unruly passengers on flights with 4,724 unruly passenger incidents reported this year as of Tuesday.
Of those incidents, 3,433 are related to masks which are required on flights due to the COVID-19 pandemic. A total of 882 investigations have been initiated into these reports and 196 enforcement cases have been initiated.