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TSA found more than 1,500 guns at airport checkpoints during 1st quarter of 2024, agency says

The Transportation Security Administration said it intercepted more than 1,500 firearms at airport security checkpoints nationwide in the first quarter of 2024.

The detections, which averaged 16.5 firearms per day in the first three months of the year, were marginally fewer than last year's first-quarter average of 16.8 firearms per day, according to new data released by the TSA on Thursday. The slight decrease, however, came amid a nearly 8% surge in flyers.

The small drop is notable, as firearm discoveries have steadily increased in the past several years. Last year, the TSA found a record-setting 6,737 guns at airport checkpoints, surpassing the previous year's record of 6,542 guns and the highest annual total for the agency since it was created in the wake of the 9/11 terror attacks. 

The rate of interceptions per million passengers also slightly decreased in this year's first quarter when compared to last year's, from 7.9 to 7.3. More than 206 million passengers were screened this quarter, compared to more than 191 million passengers in the first three months of 2023.

More than 93% of the firearms found in the first quarters of 2024 and 2023 were loaded.

"While it is certainly promising that the rate of passengers bringing firearms to the checkpoint has decreased, one firearm at the checkpoint is too many," TSA Administrator David Pekoske said in the news release. "Every time we discover a firearm at the checkpoint, the security screening process is slowed down for all."

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Prohibited items that were found at TSA checkpoints at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport May 25, 2021. Alex Wong/Getty Images

Pekoske noted that traveling with a licensed firearm is legal as long as the weapon is properly packed according to TSA guidelines and placed in checked baggage. 

TSA requires firearms to be unloaded, locked in a hard-sided case and declared to the airline when checking the bag. 

All firearms are prohibited at security checkpoints and in the passenger cabin of aircraft, even if a passenger has a concealed carry permit or is in a constitutional carry jurisdiction, the agency said.

Since TSA doesn't confiscate firearms, when one is detected at a checkpoint, the officer has to call local law enforcement to take possession of the weapon. It is up to the law enforcement officer to arrest or cite the passenger, depending on local law, though the TSA can impose a civil penalty of up to almost $15,000, according to the agency. 

Last year, more than 1,100 guns were found at just three of the nation's airports. Officers at Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, the nation's busiest airport, found 451 firearms in carry-ons, more than any other airport in the country, according to TSA data. Dallas Fort Worth International Airport and Houston's George Bush Intercontinental Airport rounded out the top three.

—Kris Van Cleave and Alex Sundby contributed reporting.

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