TSA Finds Record Number of Firearms in Carry-On Bags

80 percent of the firearms found were loaded.

ByABC News
January 23, 2015, 12:35 PM

— -- The next time you are standing in the security line at the airport, be aware that some of your fellow passengers may be packing more than just clothes.

The Transportation Security Administration says that a record 2,212 firearms were discovered in passenger's carry-on bags or on their bodies in the past year. And more than eighty percent of those guns were loaded.

TSA says the found an average of six firearms a day, and discoveries were made at 224 airports.

Dallas-Fort Worth Airport had the most guns confiscated, with 120, while Atlanta had 109 cases, TSA said.

Sky Harbor in Phoenix, Bush International in Houston and the Denver International airport each had more than 50 firearm incidents. On June 4th alone, 18 firearms were discovered around the country packed in carry-on bags. The total number of firearms discovered at security checkpoints has been rising for almost ten years now. In 2005, only 660 firearms turned up during air passenger screenings.

“The most common excuse people give when we detect a firearm in their carry-on bag is that they forgot. The second most common excuse is that their husband or wife packed the bag," TSA spokesperson Lisa Farbstein told ABC News. "We have no reason to believe that any of the individuals who have been stopped with firearms at checkpoints have had any intent to cause harm."

That may be true, but some of the firearm incidents make you ask, "What were they thinking?"

  • A 94-year-old man attempted to enter the checkpoint at LaGuardia Airport (LGA) with a loaded .38 caliber revolver clipped to his belt.
  • A loaded 380. caliber firearm was discovered strapped to a passenger's ankle after walking through a metal detector at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport.
  • A loaded 380. caliber firearm was discovered in the rear pocket of a San Antonio International Airport (SAT) passenger during advanced imaging technology screening.

In addition to handguns and other firearms, TSA also turns up some potentially deadly items coming through security.

An Mk 2 hand grenade was discovered in a carry-on bag at Los Angeles International Airport. The Terminal 1 checkpoint was closed while the explosive ordnance disposal team transported the grenade to an offsite location to be disrupted. Five flights were delayed more than two hours, affecting 800 passengers. Other dangerous items discovered last year include: a fireworks making kit, fireworks, black powder pellets, live flash bang grenades, propane, a flare gun, seal deterrent, M-1000 fireworks, over 700 stun guns and live smoke grenades.

TSA also reports there were many instances last year when travelers attempted to hide items, especially knives. An 8 inch knife was found at Sonoma, CA airport hidden in an enchilada. Razor blades were found hidden in a greeting card in Newport News. And TSA says screeners regularly found sword canes, credit card knives, belt buckle knives, comb/brush knives, knives hidden in shoes, knives hidden in thermoses and knives hidden under the bag lining near the handle mechanism. Inert or replica explosives are also a problem for screeners. A realistic replica of a Claymore anti-personnel mine was discovered in a traveler's checked bag at San Francisco International Airport.

So what happens to these gun-toting or weapon-carrying passengers? TSA says it is up to local law enforcement as to whether the individual is cited or arrested. That is a local decision made based on the laws of the jurisdiction. Same for prosecutions—that's up to the local prosecutor.

TSA’s Lisa Farbstein points out that "people can actually fly with their firearms if they do so the correct way. The correct way is to pack your firearm in a hard-sided case. The gun must be unloaded. The case must have a lock on it."

If you are flying with a firearm, you then take that case to the check-in counter and declare to the airline representative that you want to fly with your firearm. The airline representative will give you a brief form to fill out. A local law enforcement officer may come over to see if you’ve packed the firearm properly. And then the airline will make sure that the firearm is handled as checked luggage, in the belly of the plane.