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TSA confiscated record number of guns from airline passengers in 2022

TSA agents remind travelers how to properly pack bags after increase of guns found
TSA agents remind travelers how to properly pack bags after increase of guns found 02:29

Transportation Security Administration officers confiscated more than 6,542 firearms from airport passengers in 2022 – the highest number recorded since the agency's inception. Of those guns taken at airport security checkpoints, 88% were loaded, the agency announced Tuesday.  

The confiscations by TSA mark a nearly 10% increase over the 5,972 firearms seized in 2021, which was also a record. 

The agency announced in December that it was raising the maximum civil penalty for a firearms violation from $13,910 to $14,950. 

These were the airports with the largest number of guns confiscated last year.

  1. Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport: 448
  2. Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport: 385
  3. George Bush Intercontinental Airport, Houston: 298
  4. Nashville International Airport: 213
  5. Sky Harbor International Airport, Phoenix: 196
  6. Orlando International Airport: 162
  7. Denver International Airport: 156
  8. Austin-Bergstrom International Airport: 150
  9. Fort Lauderdale Airport 134
  10. Tampa International Airport: 131  

At Pennsylvania airport security checkpoints, TSA officers stopped 82 handguns in 2022. That's a "decline from the 89 guns detected in 2021, yet a spike from the 71 caught in 2019 (pre-pandemic)."

The number of firearms caught at Pittsburgh International Airport dipped from 32 to 26, the TSA said. There was a decrease at Arnold Palmer Regional Airport, too. The number dipped from six to one.

According to TSA policy, individuals toting either loaded firearms — or unloaded firearms with accessible ammunition — may face fines starting at $3,000, plus a criminal referral to law enforcement. Those with "aggravating circumstances," including a history of carrying loaded weapons into security checkpoints, could be forced to shell out the maximum fine. 

TSA will grant civil penalty action only after completing an investigation. If passengers violate state laws, TSA refers cases to local authorities. 

TSA is also revoking PreCheck eligibility for at least five years for any passenger caught with a firearm, and it routinely conducts "enhanced screening" for those passengers to ensure no other threats are present.

Passengers who wish to transport firearms are instructed to follow proper packing guidance for firearms in checked baggage, and declare them to their airline at check-in. 

"I am incredibly proud of our dedicated TSA employees who perform the critical task of securing our nation's transportation systems each day," said TSA Administrator David Pekoske. "We had a very successful year that ended with the enactment of the FY 2023 Omnibus Appropriations Bill, which included funding to bring TSA employee compensation to a level commensurate with other federal employees, in addition to funding to expand collective bargaining rights for our non-supervisory screening workforce."

Travel volumes returned to pre-pandemic levels in 2022, according to the TSA. Officers screened 736 million passengers, an average of over 2 million passengers per day.

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