Feb 5, 2024 - News

Gun discoveries at Nashville airport rank among the most in the nation

Data: Transportation Security Administration; Chart: Axios Visuals

Gun discoveries at Nashville International Airport ticked down in 2023, but it remains near the top of the national rankings for firearms discovered in carry-ons.

By the numbers: The Transportation Security Administration reported its agents found 188 guns at Nashville airport security checkpoints in 2023 compared with a record high of 213 the year before.

  • Statewide, 313 firearms were found last year. The Memphis airport accounted for the second-highest tally in Tennessee, with 71 guns discovered.

Zoom out: Nationwide, the total of guns found in carry-ons climbed to 6,737. TSA reported 93% of them were loaded.

What happens: When a TSA agent sees a firearm during an X-ray, they immediately contact the airport law enforcement agency to remove the weapon and contact the traveler, Axios' Thomas Wheatley writes.

  • What happens to the firearm — and the traveler — is at the discretion of airport law enforcement, TSA says. People can face criminal and civil penalties, plus the loss of TSA PreCheck eligibility.

Yes, but: Travelers caught by a TSA agent with a prohibited object like a hatchet, saw blade or novelty bat (really) have three options: take the items back to their cars, check them in a bag or surrender the objects and pick them up later.

  • The objects are tossed in a locker. When the locker fills up, a third-party contractor hauls off the items to be sold at auction or elsewhere.

Fun fact: A massive store called Unclaimed Baggage — it's in Alabama, just under three hours from Nashville — contracts with airliners and resells the wild variety of items travelers abandon or lose.

State of play: Firearms discoveries in Nashville dramatically increased after the pandemic.

  • Last year, firearm discoveries at Nashville's airport ranked No. 5 nationwide, ahead of the airports in Denver and Tampa.

The big picture: State lawmakers have worked for years to expand access to firearms, and Tennesseans are legally allowed to keep guns in their cars. But federal rules still bar them from airplane carry-ons.

Of note: Nashville police reported there were 1,203 guns reported stolen from vehicles in 2023.

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