More People Are Trying To Board Planes With Guns

Filed Under: Security/TSA

Well this is kind of alarming…

TSA detecting more guns at checkpoints

The Transportation Security Administration is seeing quite an increase in the number of people trying to bring guns through airport checkpoints. Specifically, in July 2020 firearms have been detected in carry-on bags at a rate that’s three times higher than July 2019:

  • In July 2020, TSA officers detected 15.3 guns per million passengers
  • In July 2019, TSA officers detected 5.1 guns per million passengers

Admittedly passenger volumes are quite a bit lower than last year — for July they were down about 75% compared to last July. As a result, the absolute volume of guns is only down slightly compared to last year. With 600,000 to 800,000 people typically traveling daily, that means the TSA is detecting somewhere around 10 firearms per day, give or take.

Keep in mind that those are only the firearms that the TSA is detecting — tests in the past have shown that the TSA misses a vast majority of firearms at checkpoints.

For some more data:

  • In 2020 80% of firearms coming through checkpoints are loaded, while in 2019 that number was 87%
  • 4,432 firearms were discovered in carry-on bags in 2019, averaging 12.1 firearms per day
  • 4,239 firearms were discovered in carry-on bags in 2019, averaging 11.6 firearms per day

What’s the penalty for being caught with a firearm?

The recommended civil penalty for firearms detected at TSA checkpoints starts at:

  • $2,050 if it’s unloaded
  • $4,100 if it’s loaded

The penalty can go up to the statutory maximum of more than $10,250 per violation, depending on circumstances. Furthermore, individuals caught with firearms can also have Trusted Traveler Program participation revoked, including TSA Pre-Check and Global Entry.

I don’t get it?

As a non-gun owner I just can’t wrap my head around this. I understand people have varying beliefs on gun ownership in this country, but shouldn’t there be some level of personal accountability?

Do people not know they can’t bring a gun on a plane? Because if so, they probably shouldn’t be allowed to own a gun.

Or are people so careless with their guns that they “forget” they can’t take them onboard a plane? Because if so, they probably shouldn’t be allowed to own a gun.

Or are people trying to see if they can sneak onto a plane with a gun? Because if so, they probably shouldn’t be allowed to own a gun.

This is simply absurd. There’s a process by which gun owners can check a bag that has a firearm in it, so it’s not like people are sneaking on guns because there’s no other way to transport them. Rather this is pure recklessness, and perhaps in some cases there’s also bad intent?

Bottom line

In the month of July, the TSA saw the number of travelers with firearms triple compared to the same month last year. That’s incredibly alarming. Why do people have to be so irresponsible? Is it time we see bigger penalties so that people aren’t so careless?

Are you surprised by the increase in guns being detected at TSA checkpoints? And for gun owners, can you explain to me how people can so easily “forget” they’re carrying when they show up at an airport?

Comments
  1. Another way to interpret this is perhaps the total number of passengers with guns is the same, the TSA is just getting better at detecting them?

  2. My gut says that the number of guns being brought through checkpoints has not changed, but rather that the demographics of the current traveler has shifted. People who HAVE to travel are still going to travel, and people who HAVE to travel are more likely to be going to places last-minute, which leads to rapidly packing with a bag you forgot had a gun in it from last weekend at the range. Not sure if my argument is clear, but it makes sense in my head.

  3. I would guess it is correlated with who is willing to fly these days. There is an unfortunately large number of folks who don’t worry much about the virus and those people might also be more likely to carry guns.

  4. I would think that Peter is on the right track. Maybe not necessarily that they’re getting better at detecting overall, but with less traffic through checkpoints they have more time to scrutinize and therefore one would hope they’d have a higher success rate

  5. As for the motives of the people, Hanlon’s Razor is appropriate:

    “ Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity”

    I’d agree with the above who think that TSA screening may be more effective in these low traffic times.

  6. I suspect that Peter, Rob, and Iolaire may all be correct to varying degrees on this

    Although, my inner conspiracy theorist wants to add in the idea that some may be “testing limited resources”. But that would be some pretty wild speculation.

  7. Aside from the fines, I hope they are placed on watchlists and a forced SSSS each time the board in the future, forever. Second offense for these jerks, DNF list forever; we don’t know what their intentions are.

  8. My first thought was along the lines of what lolaire said: The demographics of those traveling now are more likely those who are all for personal freedom and gun ownership etc

    Also I think you made a mistake and repeated 2019 in the below sentence
    4,432 firearms were discovered in carry-on bags in 2019, averaging 12.1 firearms per day
    4,239 firearms were discovered in carry-on bags in 2019, averaging 11.6 firearms per day

  9. The title should amended to state Americans ( Trump supporters – no mask , however they must have a gun )

  10. Ben/Tiffany, ironically another nasty hidden “gun furniture” ad (not going to dignify the brand name) appears right in the middle of the article on my browser. Zero reason for it to be served up for me – I don’t own a gun, don’t visit those types of sites, don’t comment on guns. Yet there it is.

    I have a screenshot if you want me to send it over email too.

  11. @Peter

    You are suggesting almost 19 years after 9/11, TSA just got 3 times better at detecting guns over the past year? There are definitely not that bad.

    Similar to what @Ken said. The same group of people who ignores COVID and travel are the same group of people who own guns.

  12. The way to stop this is easy enough: if you try to bring a gun on a plane you get put on the lifetime no-fly list.

  13. I had a pilot friend for a US carrier who was a second amendment fanatic. He was one of the first guys to sign up for the FFDO program when it launched and was really upset when he found out that it didn’t allow him to concealed carry when on layover in the UK.

    He actually believed that everyone (viz. all passengers) should be allowed to carry guns on planes without restrictions, and even tried to get ALPA to lobby against the creation of the TSA. He was very proud of showing off his handgun to his crew while muttering “SHALL NOT BE INFRINGED!!!!” Most of the flight attendants thought he was just creepy.

    Last I heard of him (which was admittedly 10+ years ago), he got shot in the leg by his brother while out hunting and was on leave of absence while he recuperated.

    To each their own.

  14. It’s probably all the Boogaloo Bros flying to Austin so they can walk around downtown with their AR-15s as they’ve been doing in large numbers lately.

  15. Be interested to know some demographics to help understand this more. Is the person otherwise allowed to legally possess a gun? How many are foreign passengers leaving the country (unfamiliar with US gun laws and just bought themselves a gun.)? What type of gun (handgun, rifle, shotgun, or pellet/airsoft)?

  16. Perhaps the reason that TSA is catching firearms in carry-on bags at a rate that’s three times higher than a year ago is simply because they (TSA agents) have more time to review the baggage as it’s going through screening than they used to due to the dramatically reduced number of people going through screening. Ben/Lucky mentioned that tests in the past have revealed that the TSA missed a vast majority of firearms going through screening. Those tests were probably taking place when there were lots of people going through screening, and the TSA was trying to keep things moving as efficiently as possible to avoid people missing their flights.

  17. Probably some combination of what Peter, Rob, and others have said. With 80% less travel volume, TSA is being more thorough on a per passenger basis. TSA testing continually shows that they miss the majority of weapons passing through security. So with volumes down, it makes sense that detection goes up. I know people personally who (pre-Covid) accidentally took guns through security and were not caught. My dad also accidentally flew with a box cutter 8 times in September and October 2001 before finding it in his carry on. Never once did security find it – even in those heightened awareness weeks right after the attacks.

  18. @UA NYC afraid of guns are you ? What a surprise.

    Gun sales and background checks are at an all time high since the black lives matter looting and rioting and defunding of police.

    Most people trying to bring guns thru airport security are out of ignorance and most likely good people with guns that have no intention of hijacking. On the other hand If these were Arabs then that would be another story and additional screening would be required.

  19. You see people every day with nail scissors or a pocket knife in their bag… there is usually a half full bin of them confiscated at every security check point.

    The same is true of a gun, to the people that carry them they aren’t big scary things, they’re everyday tools that they carry in their bags or on their person and get forgotten like you might forget a nail scissors or a full size sunscreen. I frequently borrow a gym bag or pair of jeans from LE or military buddies and have to remember to check the pockets for stray bullets before going through the airport.

    With the current political situation and pandemic more people are carrying than ever. Guns are going to get forgotten. An expensive mistake.

  20. No surprise there in the land that values gun ownership more than it values life. Sad that tens of thousands due each year needlessly so that some people can make themselves feel safer, even though they are less safe because of it.

    Now hundreds of thousands will die in the US because of that same attitude – ‘screw everyone else as long as I get what I want’

    Very sad to see a country that has so much positive going for it being decimated by the lack of leadership, and for once, this isnt a trump thing, every ‘leader’ in the US is as much to blame for this mess.

  21. @D3kingg – don’t be an ahole troll. If you need an AR-15 to go hunt deer, or protect your home from the phantom caravans probably coming up from Mexico, that probably says a lot about you.

    You’re also probably too dumb to realize no police have actually been “defunded” yet. But Faux News probably has you believing otherwise.

  22. @D3kingg: Please don’t feed the resident terminal TDS-infected troll “ua-nyc”. Simply wait until after November and he/it will “move to Canada”, again.

  23. @D3kingg- Do you even have any idea what defund the police means?

    And considering the number of random white guys responsible for mass shootings at concerts, elementary schools, middle schools, high schools, churches, movie theatres, etc…..I personally don’t have an irrational fear of Arabs, but a white guy exercising his 2nd Amendment right is another story!

  24. @Amos – might want to educate yourself and check out Real Clear Politics (nonpartisan poll of polls site). Hint – it’s not going so well for your ilk. Keep pretending it’s 2016 all over again BTW!

  25. Shooter, owner, combat vet here. I strongly believe in a requirement that people with firearms demonstrate discipline and presence of mind without fail. If one is so absent minded they take their firearm to the airport they are not responsible enough to possess firearms. Their ownership right should be forfeit. Don’t give any whiny excuses either.

  26. with all due respect, packing a loaded gun has a very different potential outcome to packing a can of sun tan lotion or nail clippers. spa services vs. rampage?

  27. I frequently travel with a firearm in my checked baggage. There are very specific procedures for doing this that include the following:
    – present said firearm unloaded to the check in agent and declare the firearm.
    – if carrying magazines, they must be unloaded
    – ammo must be in its original packaging or an acceptable secure case
    – firearm must be in a hard sided case and locked in a way that only you have the key or password. Tsa locks are acceptable/encouraged.
    – all of the above is inspected by a TSA firearms specialist before the check in agent will send the bag through to the normal baggage inspection procedure.
    – at the destination, the bag containing the firearm is USUALLY, although not always delivered to the BSO where it may be retrieved upon presentation of a photo ID.

    Serious firearms owners know these procedures and take them seriously. In my opinion people who do not respect them should at the very least forfeit their concealed carry permits

  28. Off on a tangent here, but it is apparent that Americans have become victims of the much lauded Constitution, particularly the 1st and 2nd Amendments which have been so twisted out of shape to suit the purposes of those with agendas.
    You really need to sort it out, but where to even start? Maybe the horse has bolted…..

  29. @Arie

    Being able to defend yourself from rape, murder, assault or robbery does not make you more unsafe; it makes it more unsafe for thugs. People who are scared of guns have an irrational fear. Their remedy for their fear is to make it harder for peaceful citiEns to get guns while thugs and cops run wild with guns. It’s illogical. Anti gun people have no place in a respectable society and no place voting.

    It’s very easy for people who have handguns to put them in a bag they use daily in their lives and not take it out when they travel. There is no reason to be alarmed or concerned. The laws that criminalize it are irrational.

    Yes we need to defund the police. Liberal gun control, the liberal war on drugs, seat belt laws, and nanny state laws should not be enforced.

  30. @1KBrad – educate yourself so you don’t look like a clown…$1B reduction proposed by BdB doesn’t equal $1B already cut.

    That’s also out of an $11B budget (not exactly “defunded”) – will go towards well deserved mental health/social service initiatives instead.

    Faux News echo chamber is quite loud these days. #FactsMatter

  31. AMT is correct, people who carry a firearm daily have had it become a part of their normal life, and they don’t think “as a potential terrorist, I have to leave my gun at home today.” Now of course everybody knows no guns are allowed on planes. But as someone who has had to mail an expensive pocketknife home from an airport pre-security mail drop box, I can attest that it is easy to forget to alter a normal routine when worrying about the details of flying. Flying may be far less normal for the average person than it is for readers of this blog. I hope that explains, Ben, how people “forget they’re carrying-“ they don’t think about a normal part of their life when they’re thinking about getting their boarding pass to display on their app and trying to figure out which parking lot is best for their terminal.

    Arie, where are you getting that people “are less safe because of [carrying a gun]? Are you referring to the old Kellerman study? Its methodology has been publicly debunked, as it didn’t include scenarios where a firearm was used defensively but nobody died. That exact situation is estimated by the DOJ to occur 2 million times annually in America.

  32. @UA-NYC:

    Still behind, I see. Don’t let your ignorance get in the way of being insulting, however.

    “NY City Council approves slashing $1B from NYPD budget”

    Catch-up.

    Guess you are also not keeping up on how the crime rate in the city is skyrocketing and the wealthy, who paid 50% of the city taxes, have left.

    Enjoy the cesspool.

    I’d play more, but I’m busy cleaning my guns.

  33. @Jo145: Except it hasn’t. 20 just shot in one shooting event in Washington DC.

    14 shot in Chicago last month in one shooting event.

  34. @1KBrad That is really awful and I stand corrected. Presumably COVID-19 has pushed the other pandemic in the US off the front pages.

  35. “the cops run wild with guns” while the populace doesn’t.

    And you’re more worried about getting assaulted or robbed than getting shot.

    You really have weird views Jackson.

  36. @Rob above said

    “which leads to rapidly packing with a bag you forgot had a gun in it from last weekend at the range”

    The fact that a person can forget where their gun is, and still be considered a “responsible gun owner” floors me.

  37. @lolaire
    @ken
    Not sure I agree with the assumption that there is a correlation between gun ownership and travel right now. also, the assumption that a significant portion of the traveling public are taking covid lightly is not accurate as I have experienced it. certainly your experience may be different. it is true that there are irresponsible travelers but that can be the case anytime. I’m seeing the glass more full than empty as far as responsible travel. it seems like we all go through life weighing risk before action and most people continue to do so while adjusting for the current environment. beyond that, the gun thing is a mystery.

  38. What I can’t wrap my a head around is:

    “ The recommended civil penalty for firearms detected at TSA checkpoints starts at:

    $2,050 if it’s unloaded
    $4,100 if it’s loaded
    The penalty can go up to the statutory maximum of more than $10,250 per violation, depending on circumstances. Furthermore, individuals caught with firearms can also have Trusted Traveler Program participation revoked, including TSA Pre-Check and Global Entry.”

    If you want to stop this, and you consider it a threat to us, put a real penalty for attempting to carry a gun on board. The penalty needs to be severe. Mandatory jail time for starters.

  39. @ Arie
    “No surprise there in the land that values gun ownership more than it values life.”

    Right…and most of the Western world values the ability to drink and be able (though not legally permitted) to drive a car. We could have breathalyzers with ignition interlocks if these societies truly valued life?

    How about speed governors set to 30 MPH? That could reduce a great many needless deaths for those that value life.

    “Sad that tens of thousands due each year needlessly so that some people can make themselves feel safer, even though they are less safe because of it.”

    In order to fully have control over ones life, that is the right to life, one should be able to forfeit it.

    @UA-NYC:
    “If you need an AR-15 to go hunt deer, or protect your home from the phantom caravans probably coming up from Mexico, that probably says a lot about you.”

    Why do the friendly neighborhood traffic cop need an AR in their patrol car? Police nearly always RESPOND to calls for help. They respond with an AR available to them yet the person requesting the assistance does not need one?

  40. The explanation that immediately jumped to mind is that there are very few people traveling for business right now, who are probably less likely to bring guns on their trips and be more likely to remember to properly check them when they do (because they fly more often so have it as a habit). So if they all stop traveling, but other people cut back their travel less you can get a very big rise in guns found per million passengers.

  41. FYI, the “penalty” at JFK or LGA for carrying a gun (makes no difference if you have a license from anyplace other than NYC or whether you follow FAA protocols or not or if you are just transiting the airport) they call the NYPD who arrests you. It’s a felony. If you have ammo in or near the gun it’s a “violent felony” and you’re facing 3-1/2 years in jail. You’re at the mercy of the DA and the Grand Jury. It will certainly ruin your travel plans.

  42. There needs to severe punishment – big fine and years of jai time – across the country for passenger attempting to fly with guns.

  43. It seems like presupposing that any of these people mean to do any actual harm would be to ignore your other article from a few years ago that the TSA was missing 95% of these guns.

    https://onemileatatime.com/tsa-fails-tests-95-percent/

    There wasn’t a single national story since that time of anyone pulling a gun on an airplane intending to do harm. . . so, the idea that TSA is really doing anything at all when it comes to guns is kind of silly, right?

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