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Number of guns seized at U.S. airport security checkpoints keeps rising, TSA says

By Chris Benson
TSA, which says it screened higher passenger volumes this summer and at a record-breaking 3 million passengers on July 7, intercepted 3,269 firearms at airport security checkpoints during the first half of the year ending June 30, officials said. That represents an average 19 firearms detected per day at TSA checkpoints -- with 94% reportedly loaded. File Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI
TSA, which says it screened higher passenger volumes this summer and at a record-breaking 3 million passengers on July 7, intercepted 3,269 firearms at airport security checkpoints during the first half of the year ending June 30, officials said. That represents an average 19 firearms detected per day at TSA checkpoints -- with 94% reportedly loaded. File Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI | License Photo

July 9 (UPI) -- The Transportation Security Administration announced Tuesday that in the first half of the year it seized more than 3,000 guns at airport security checkpoints throughout the United States after a record-breaking numbers of travelers so far this year.

"During a period of record-breaking travel volumes," TSA Administrator David Pekoske said Tuesday in a news release, "our officers are working hard to keep our transportation systems secure and the traveling public safe, and any time they detect a firearm, there is a real safety concern for frontline employees and travelers."

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The agency said it screened greater passenger volumes this summer and on July 7 saw a record-breaking 3 million individuals pass through the nation's airports.

Agents reportedly intercepted 3,269 firearms at U.S. airport security checkpoints during the first half of 2024 ending June 30, representing an average 19 firearms detected per day at TSA checkpoints with 94% reportedly loaded, officials said.

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However, in the first eight days of this month, TSA added, an additional 166 firearms were intercepted. That brings the yearly total to July 8 at 3,435 firearms seized so far this year, in stark contrast with a reported total of 1,508 gun seized by April last year.

Pekoske reminded air travelers that, in order to carry a firearm through TSA checkpoints, there are procedures in place.

Passengers are permitted to travel on airplanes with a gun, subject to other foreign country travel restrictions. But in the United States, to travel with a firearm it must be: secured in the passenger's checked baggage, packed unloaded, locked in a hard-sided case and declared to the airline when first checking the bag at the airline ticket counter.

"Do not bring it to the checkpoint," TSA's administrator said. "It is costly and delays you and everyone else traveling in the same lane with you."

Firearms are not allowed at security checkpoints, in the secure area of an airport or passenger cabin of an aircraft -- even if a passenger has a concealed carry permit or is in a constitutional carry jurisdiction, TSA said. It pointed out that the federal agency does not "confiscate or seize" firearms, rather brings in outside law enforcement to take possession of andy weapons.

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The issue of guns, ammunition and air travel has been a noteworthy one of late.

In June, an American tourist from Oklahoma, looking at the possibility of up to 12 years in prison, avoided jail time in the Turks and Caicos islands by paying a $2,000 fine for bullets found in his luggage in April at Howard Hamilton International Airport while on a trip to celebrate the birthday of several friends.

In the first two weeks of 2024, TSA officials reported gun-related incidents at Frederick Douglass Rochester International Airport in Virginia, New York's LaGuardia Airport and Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Arlington, Va.

A woman in December was stopped with a loaded handgun before boarding her Christmas Eve flight at Reagan Washington National Airport after it was detected in her carry-on items, and she now is facing a civil penalty of up to $15,000.

Last year, even two elected officials faced travel issues related to guns in their own cases.

In May, ex-Rep. Madison Cawthorn, R-N.C., plead guilty to bringing a loaded gun through security at North Carolina's Charlotte Douglas International Airport. Cawthorn, a hard right Republican, made the guilty plea to a third-degree misdemeanor charge of possession of a dangerous weapon on city property and paid a $250 fine.

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That was followed in October when a Republican state Senator from Washington got arrested and charged with possession of an unregistered firearm in Hong Kong after it was discovered in his carry-on luggage on his way home, though his office claimed it was registered in Washington.

The total number of guns taken at American airports appear to consistently keep rising.

In January, TSA said it hit a record the year before after it had seized more than 6,700 guns at airport security checkpoints throughout the United States in 2023, beating 2022's record of 6,542 guns seized at American airports.

At the time, Pekoske said he was particularly concerned about the growing number of loaded guns, which pose "an unnecessary risk to everyone at the TSA checkpoint," he said in January.

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