Jan 11, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Record number of guns were discovered at airport checkpoints in 2023

<span style="color: white; background-color:#FB9430; padding: 0px 4px; display: inline-block; margin: 5px 0px 0px; white-space: nowrap;">Loaded</span> and <span style="color: #333335; background-color:#FCCA8C; padding: 0px 4px; display: inline-block; margin: 5px 0px 0px; white-space: nowrap">unloaded</span> firearms found by TSA
Data: TSA; Note: Loaded firearms estimated from percentages provided by TSA; Chart: Erin Davis/Axios Visuals

A record-high of 6,737 guns were discovered at airport security checkpoints in 2023, the Transportation Security Administration announced Thursday.

Why it matters: Of that total, about 93% of the guns were loaded, TSA said in a press release.

  • The new record represents the highest annual total recorded by TSA in the agency's history.

What they're saying: "We are still seeing far too many firearms at TSA checkpoints, and what's particularly concerning is the amount of them loaded, presenting an unnecessary risk to everyone at the TSA checkpoint," TSA Administrator David Pekoske said in the press release.

  • Federal regulations bar airline passengers from traveling with a loaded gun or with an unloaded gun that's not declared to the airline ahead of time and properly stowed away in a hard-sided, locked container.
  • Flyers caught with a gun at airport security can face civil penalties of up to $15,000, among other consequences, the press release noted.
  • While TSA doesn't confiscate guns that are discovered, it does contact local law enforcement, which can take the gun away and either arrest or cite the passenger, depending on local law.

State of play: Last year's record-setting number of intercepted guns beat the previous record set in 2022, of 6,542 guns.

  • It marks the third consecutive year that a new record high of confiscated firearms at airport security was set.

Go deeper: TSA finds record number of firearms at security checkpoints in 2022

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