COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – The Transportation Security Administration said it’s “alarmed” at how many guns are turning up at certain U.S. airports, and the agency expects to find more.
“There appears to be an epidemic of ammunition that is cropping up at our security checkpoints — one that is easily preventable,” said Thomas Carter, TSA’s Federal Security Director for New Jersey, last month. “Guns, ammunition and security checkpoints don’t mix. Guns and ammunition are never allowed to pass through a security checkpoint to be carried onto a flight, even if a traveler has a concealed carry permit.”
At John Glenn Airport in Columbus, Ohio, for example, a TSA spokesperson said with only about half of the year over, the airport is on pace to surpass 2021 in the number of guns stopped at checkpoints.
“While our passenger volumes have not yet fully returned to pre-pandemic levels, we are seeing even higher numbers of firearms, most of them loaded,” Ohio TSA Federal Security Director Don Barker said.
The TSA shared data on the airports where the most guns are seized:
The most guns are seized by TSA at the country's busiest airport, Hartsfield-Jackson in Atlanta. Two Texas airports (in Dallas and Houston) and two Florida airports (Ft. Lauderdale and Orlando) also make the top-10 list.
“The most common excuses we hear from travelers is that ‘I didn’t know it was in my bag’ or ‘I forgot it was in there.’ But there is no excuse for trying to bring a handgun on a flight,” Carter said. “Responsible gun owners know where their guns are at all times.”
Every gun stopped can come with a steep price for the person trying to carry it on a plane. TSA said that the first time it finds a passenger with a loaded handgun, it can charge them a civil penalty of $4,100. Those penalties can go as high as $13,910 per violation. If someone caught is a member of TSA PreCheck, the agency said they can also lose those PreCheck privileges for an unspecified duration of time.
TSA does, however, allow people to travel with firearms in their checked luggage. The gun has to be unloaded and stored in a locked hard container inside the baggage, and the passenger has to declare the gun is inside their luggage at the ticket counter when checking it.