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TSA intercepts record number of firearms at airport checkpoints in 2022, most of them loaded

By Mary Kay Mallonee and Jason Hanna, CNN 

The number of firearms that TSA officers intercepted at airport security checkpoints in 2022 is the highest on record for a single year -- and the vast majority of the weapons were loaded, the US Transportation Security Administration said Friday.

TSA officers caught 6,301 firearms at checkpoints this year as of Friday, such as in carry-on bags. About 88% of the firearms were loaded, the administration said.

The previous record was 5,972 firearms caught in 2021, 86% of which were loaded, the TSA said.

The record comes as daily passenger volume is nearing pre-pandemic levels. Numbers of people going through checkpoints daily have been higher this year than in 2021 and approaching the numbers in 2019, according to the TSA.

The TSA recently increased the maximum civil penalty for firearms violations to $14,950, it said Friday. That's up from $13,910.

While passengers can put unloaded firearms in checked baggage assuming they follow certain guidelines, they are prohibited from taking them through TSA security checkpoints in carry-on bags, even if they have a concealed weapon permit.

"When a passenger brings a firearm to the checkpoint, this consumes significant security resources and poses a potential threat to transportation security, in addition to being very costly for the passenger," TSA Administrator David Pekoske said in a news release.

The number of firearms caught at checkpoints has risen every year since 2010 with the exception of 2020, when the Covid-19 pandemic cratered flight availability and demand, the TSA says.

Besides fining passengers who violate the firearms rules, the TSA revokes their TSA PreCheck eligibility for five years. Violators also may be subject to arrest, depending on state and local law at the airport's location.

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