Sheesh: TSA Stopped 5,000+ Firearms At Airports In 2021

Sheesh: TSA Stopped 5,000+ Firearms At Airports In 2021

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Every once in a while the TSA releases data on how many people try to go through airport security checkpoints with firearms, and this year we’re seeing a 20-year record.

14+ guns stopped at TSA checkpoints daily, most loaded

The TSA has revealed some shocking data on the number of firearms that have been stopped at security checkpoints this year:

  • So far in 2021, more than 5,000 firearms have been stopped at TSA checkpoints
  • This represents a 20-year record in terms of the number of firearms stopped at checkpoints
  • Over 85% of those firearms were loaded
  • If you crunch the numbers (there have been 341 days so far this year), that means an average of ~14.7 firearms are stopped at TSA checkpoints daily, and ~12.4 of those are loaded

So, what happens when someone is caught with a loaded firearm at an airport? In some cases local law enforcement confiscates firearms at checkpoints and arrests those in possession of a firearm. Passengers found with firearms at checkpoints face fines of up to $13,910, and can have their TSA PreCheck membership suspended.

I’ll never be able to wrap my head around this

I have a couple of thoughts when I see data like this.

First of all, if nearly 15 guns are stopped at TSA checkpoints every day, one has to wonder how many aren’t stopped. Historically the TSA has missed 90%+ of weapons when tests were conducted. Has the TSA improved considerably, or are 100+ loaded firearms getting through security checkpoints daily?

Next, I just don’t get how careless people are with bringing guns to the airport. I’m not a gun owner, but if I’m understanding the argument for guns correctly, it’s about self defense. If that’s the case, shouldn’t you always remember you have it on you, and take extreme precautions? It just seems like someone who shows up at an airport and forgot they had a loaded gun isn’t exactly the most responsible person.

Did most of the people getting caught just totally forget that they had a gun? Did they not realize they couldn’t take it on a plane? Did they want to see if they could get away with it?

It seems like the punishment is pretty minimal here, and for that matter earlier this year a US representative tried to board a flight with a loaded gun. Not only was he not charged with any crime, but the gun was even secured at the airport so he could retrieve it upon his return, so that he wouldn’t miss his flight.

I don’t want to be grim, but is it going to take a mass shooting on a plane or past a security checkpoint for stricter punishments to be put into place, to deter people from accidentally bringing guns to the airport? I would think there’s not another country in the world where a dozen people per day get stopped with a loaded firearm at the airport, and no one bats an eyelid.

Bottom line

The TSA has released data for 2021 regarding firearms at security checkpoints. So far this year, over 5,000 firearms have been stopped at airports, and 85% of those were loaded. So yeah, over 12 people per day are being stopped at checkpoints with loaded firearms. This problem continues to get worse rather than better, and I just don’t get it…

Can anyone make sense of the number of people bringing guns to airports? What’s the logic?

Conversations (41)
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  1. Dave Guest

    I carry a gun everywhere except airports and if I'm consuming alcohol in a bar. But otherwise, everywhere. And yes, it is always loaded.

    And while I'm careful, I have to admit that it is not at all uncommon for me to have a moment of panic as I approach TSA wondering if I have forgotten I have one in my bag (or even holstered). When you are used to carrying a gun regularly, it...

    I carry a gun everywhere except airports and if I'm consuming alcohol in a bar. But otherwise, everywhere. And yes, it is always loaded.

    And while I'm careful, I have to admit that it is not at all uncommon for me to have a moment of panic as I approach TSA wondering if I have forgotten I have one in my bag (or even holstered). When you are used to carrying a gun regularly, it becomes as familiar as a cell phone and NOT carrying it with you is something you have to think very intentionally about.

    I've never made the mistake, but I can see how someone would.

  2. Raoul Suarez Guest

    Platy, educate yourself. Gun crime is increasing, but it’s not legal gun owners. It’s the illegal ones. But, my bet is you’re a liberal and that means you support de facto decriminalization of just about everything and yet making it increasingly hard for law abiding citizens to have guns for self-defense. Taking guns away from law abiding citizens won’t make criminals magically less likely to have or use them. Your simplistic view that taking guns...

    Platy, educate yourself. Gun crime is increasing, but it’s not legal gun owners. It’s the illegal ones. But, my bet is you’re a liberal and that means you support de facto decriminalization of just about everything and yet making it increasingly hard for law abiding citizens to have guns for self-defense. Taking guns away from law abiding citizens won’t make criminals magically less likely to have or use them. Your simplistic view that taking guns away from law abiding citizens will create a more progressive society is engaging wishful thinking. Just like your defunding of police; violent crime went up. Sadly, criminals do not follow your lead. Meanwhile President Biden’s open borders approach lets hundreds of thousands of fresh criminals in annually. So I don’t buy that liberals stand up for a crime-free future.
    Ben: yes, every gun owner should take extreme care. So how can this happen? You should take a high degree of care to not lock your keys in your car or forget to take them when you walk out the door. But it happens. Yes, keys aren’t guns but the point is, when you do something important thousands of times, sooner or later you’re going to make a mistake. I routinely carry a (permitted) pistol in my back pocket. I also fly a lot. Sure enough, a few months back I forgot to take the pistol out of my back pocket before walking into the airport. The only thing that saved me is I realized it before I stepped into the TSA queue. I pivoted and walked back out to my car and left it there.

  3. Wilhelm Guest

    I’ll never understand Americans and their relationship to guns. In my country, there are a lot of guns due to a big hunting community and the home guard. Still, we have one of the lowest murder rates in the world.

  4. FtRump Guest

    Mostly MAGA Rightwing Extremists

  5. Matt Guest

    Why is it that they never miss then confiscate and trash my toothpaste or my 120oz can of pineapple juice, but not a gun?

  6. FlyerDon Guest

    Here in Texas you can carry a gun just about anywhere, concealed or open carry. I can stand on the sidewalk in front of your house with a loaded AR15 while your kids play in the front yard and there is nothing you can do about it. I can go to the movies with a 9mm and enough ammo to kill everyone there. When I go to vote there can be a dozen people nearby...

    Here in Texas you can carry a gun just about anywhere, concealed or open carry. I can stand on the sidewalk in front of your house with a loaded AR15 while your kids play in the front yard and there is nothing you can do about it. I can go to the movies with a 9mm and enough ammo to kill everyone there. When I go to vote there can be a dozen people nearby wearing combat gear and loaded AR15s, there to ensure a “fair” election.

    If you understand the “logic” of this you’re a smarter person than I am. But I do know that this is what can happen when one political party controls are three branches of government like it does here in Texas. In four years, if that same political party controls all three branches of the federal government anything could, and will, happen. I can guarantee you there will be elected members of that party that will be in favor of allowing guns onboard commercial aircraft. Get ready.

  7. JudgeNot Guest

    Who among us hasn't accidentally brought one or more loaded guns through airport security? As the bible says, "Let he who is without sin fire the first shot (.45 caliber or larger, none of that commie 9mm stuff)".

  8. Mike Guest

    If there are that many guns caught, just imagine how many accidentally slip through, given that the TSA has a 90% failure rate according to their own Inspector General.

  9. Steven E Guest

    @Jeff absolutely .. right on the money - and the question is that’s how many they actually got .. how many got through without detection. It says a lot about American society

  10. NYGuy24 Gold

    They should pass a federal law that if you try to bring a firearm through airport security that you lose the firearm, you get prosecuted and you lose your right to possess firearms at all. Maybe throw these people on the no fly list. The whole "I forgot the loaded firearm was in my bag" doesn't fly. Either you intentionally tried to sneak a loaded firearm on to a plane in which case you really...

    They should pass a federal law that if you try to bring a firearm through airport security that you lose the firearm, you get prosecuted and you lose your right to possess firearms at all. Maybe throw these people on the no fly list. The whole "I forgot the loaded firearm was in my bag" doesn't fly. Either you intentionally tried to sneak a loaded firearm on to a plane in which case you really should go to jail or you are not a responsible firearm owner and you shouldn't be allowed to have firearms, because careless people are often the ones who have firearms stolen by criminals that are subsequently used on innocent people. I have zero sympathy for these people. They aren't responsible enough to possess firearms end of story.

  11. George L. Lyon Jr Guest

    I've represented several persons who have accidentally taken guns through X-ray machines at airports or government buildings. Almost every time, the person had stored a gun in a backpack and forgot it was in the backpack. I teach concealed carry and advise my students not to carry in a backpack among other reasons for this very type of situation. Also, you'll never get the gun out in time to defend yourself if it is in a backpack.

  12. Sean Guest

    It's insane that at some airports, if you mistakenly bring a LOADED FIREARM (always illegal to travel with) and don't declare it, it's entirely up to TSA & local police on how to proceed. Often the offender can often offer to put the gun in their vehicle and not even pay a fine. How does this make sense?

    At the very least, these people should have to pay a fine, lose their gun license and have additional travel restrictions (dreaded SSSS) for a few years.

  13. DaninMCI Guest

    I get that a post like this is designed to get a lot of traffic but it's an issue that is hard to understand unless you are a gun owner who carries a gun for self-defense. All those guns found and more likely not found yet the only related shooting we've seen lately is a convicted felon that made an entire TSA force panic.

    1. Ray Gold

      wake up, nobody needs to "understand" this issue. It is proof that ignorant people own the guns. Does the shooting need to be at the airport for you to consider it a problem? Shall we bring up the most recent school shooting where those good solid Americans decided to get their deranged kid (a chip off the old block actually) an automatic weapon. Took him 4 days to use it.

    2. NYGuy24 Gold

      Either people are trying to sneak guns on to planes or they are soo irresponsible that they can't even remember where they left their loaded firearms. Either way these people should not be allowed to have firearms.

  14. pstm91 Diamond

    Bringing a firearm on your person or in your carry on, loaded or not, to an airport should also have your license/permit revoked on top of everything else. I also think the fine should be substantially higher. There is no excuse, especially not "forgetting" you had it. As a gun owner, I always know where it is. That's part of the responsibility, like Ben mentioned. You do that, you are not qualified to own a firearm. Simple as that.

    1. NYGuy24 Gold

      Exactly. I am all for lawful firearm ownership by responsible people. Unfortunately, these types of people give gun owners a bad name.

  15. beachmouse Guest

    When I’m packing up for a trip I always go through my carry on bags to make sure I haven’t left a Leathernan multitool in there that could be confiscated by the TSA-those little suckers are expensive to replace. So I so don’t buy the ‘I forgot my gun was in my backpack’ arguments.

  16. ConnGator Member

    The reason the punishment is not more severe is because of lack of intent. Over 99% of those with guns are just forgetful/stupid, not trying to hijack a plane.

    This is better than Mexico, where driving over the border with a single bullet in your trunk sends you to jail for years.

    1. platy Guest

      @ ConnGator - what a pathetic and shameful excuse.

      Carrying a loaded gun means the carrier reveals an intent to use that weapon to harm or kill somebody. Otherwise you wouldn't need the gun. Responsible gun owners would ship their firearms safely and unloaded and for a reasonable purpose.

      From the perspective of a country (Australia), which has taken the civilised step of limiting gun ownership (ten times less per head of population), almost totally...

      @ ConnGator - what a pathetic and shameful excuse.

      Carrying a loaded gun means the carrier reveals an intent to use that weapon to harm or kill somebody. Otherwise you wouldn't need the gun. Responsible gun owners would ship their firearms safely and unloaded and for a reasonable purpose.

      From the perspective of a country (Australia), which has taken the civilised step of limiting gun ownership (ten times less per head of population), almost totally absent mass gun killings and with 5 times less homicides per capita.

      This is better than USA, where parents buy their 15 year old kid a gun for Christmas enabling him to shoot up his school mates.

    2. George L. Lyon Jr Guest

      I carry a gun every day for personal protection and pray every day that no one places me in a position that I have to use it to protect my life or the life of a loved one. No one is coming to protect you. You are on your own and if you choose to be defenseless in the face of violent predators that is your choice. It is not mine.

    3. Jorge Paez Guest

      It's odd, guns are illegal in Mexico yet the criminals are armed to the teeth.....

    4. Arie Guest

      Guns are actually legal in mexico but theres only one store that sells it and its run by the military...

      Mexican criminals get guns smuggled from the united states and often payment is in the form of drugs.

    5. Ray Gold

      so here we go, deflect to the issues in Mexico because that way we can stick our heads deeper in the sand.

  17. Mike Guest

    I wonder if this is just a derivative of less airport traffic and travelers resulting in TSA doing a better job screening and catching more going through than they have in the past, rather than a pure volume increase on the same historical detection rates.

    1. Ray Gold

      And that is the part that is bothering you? Not the fact so many are trying? smfh

  18. guisun Gold

    There are legitimate reasons to transport a firearm(in this case the key word is "transport", not carry). You might be flying to get to a competition, or you simply plan to carry/use at destination. If you can't properly carry/transport/secure your firearm according to the safety rules or law, then this person should not be handling firearms.

    1. Ray Gold

      Yes they are handling them. And when they get addressed in a situation like the airport, they construe that as someone trying to take away their rights. Just face it America, you have a major issue on your hands and there is no going back.

  19. Justin Guest

    Its not that hard to figure out. Gun ownership in the United States has hit an all time high. More people have bought guns in this country in the last year than in all of history. There is now over 130 guns for every man, woman, and child in America. The largest group of people buying firearms are first time gun owners. Many of them lack knowledge of firearm safety or gun laws. This is...

    Its not that hard to figure out. Gun ownership in the United States has hit an all time high. More people have bought guns in this country in the last year than in all of history. There is now over 130 guns for every man, woman, and child in America. The largest group of people buying firearms are first time gun owners. Many of them lack knowledge of firearm safety or gun laws. This is what you get when you create mass fear and uncertainty over a virus and let crime surge.

    1. ConnGator Member

      Lol, no.

      "There are estimated to be over 400 million guns in the United States between police, the military, and American civilians. Over 393 Million (Over 98%) of those guns are in civilian hands, the equivalent of 120 firearms per 100 citizens."

      So instead of 130 guns per person there are 1.2 guns per person. So close.

    2. Jeff Guest

      Didn't send their smartest lol

    3. platy Guest

      @ Jeff

      Just in case you didn't get the memo - or can't read it - gun ownership is dumb. It illustrates that you are living in fear and cling to the past rather than aspire to a more civilised society. It's only a matter of a few days until the next mass shooting killing spree.

    4. George L. Lyon Jr Guest

      Seriously you have your head in the sand.

    5. platy Guest

      @ ConnGator - LOL...even with the adjusted maths it is a very sad indictment on US society that you are so much living in fear that you feel that you need 1.2 guns per person to be safe.

    6. George L. Lyon Jr Guest

      Or maybe we just prefer freedom.

    7. platy Guest

      @ George L. Lyon Jr

      What freedom? The freedom to carry a loaded gun in your backpack, forget that it's there (because you are totally irresponsible and shouldn't have a gun in the first place), blunder through a security checkpoint (because you are totally stupid and have a disrespectful at best or an intent to cause harm like at worst), and then have some self important lawyer defend you (because that lawyer thinks that stupidity...

      @ George L. Lyon Jr

      What freedom? The freedom to carry a loaded gun in your backpack, forget that it's there (because you are totally irresponsible and shouldn't have a gun in the first place), blunder through a security checkpoint (because you are totally stupid and have a disrespectful at best or an intent to cause harm like at worst), and then have some self important lawyer defend you (because that lawyer thinks that stupidity is worth defending since they carry a gun with the intent to use it to assuage their abject fear of other folk carrying guns and refuses to accept the carnage that irresponsible gun ownership creates).

      A sad and savage and uncivilised situation.

    8. NYGuy24 Gold

      How about not trying to make claims about all of US society? Only 32% of people in the US own firearms. Really shouldn't make assumptions.

    9. platy Guest

      @ NYGuy24

      Of course I realise that the gun ownership is not equally distributed and that there are those who seek to limit it. But it remains a sad indictment of US society when the 68% (taking your data point) of non gun owners represent a less powerful political force than the gun lobby. The control of firearms in Australia took some strong political will and the gun lobby is actively gnawing at the political edges.

    10. Ray Gold

      Does it really matter if there are 1.2 or 120? They are in the hands of people that have zero clue what they are doing and/or they do know and simply think they are above it all. The level of ignorance and arrogance in the US is staggering and yet they continue to not address the issue.

  20. shoeguy Guest

    Because 'merica, where the right to own a gun, brag about it, and ease of access are just as important as baseball, apple pie and chevrolet.

    1. NYGuy24 Gold

      The US is not a monolith. There are parts of the US where it is extremely difficult to get a firearm.

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Sean Guest

It's insane that at some airports, if you mistakenly bring a LOADED FIREARM (always illegal to travel with) and don't declare it, it's entirely up to TSA & local police on how to proceed. Often the offender can often offer to put the gun in their vehicle and not even pay a fine. How does this make sense? At the very least, these people should have to pay a fine, lose their gun license and have additional travel restrictions (dreaded SSSS) for a few years.

1
platy Guest

@ Jeff Just in case you didn't get the memo - or can't read it - gun ownership is dumb. It illustrates that you are living in fear and cling to the past rather than aspire to a more civilised society. It's only a matter of a few days until the next mass shooting killing spree.

1
platy Guest

@ ConnGator - LOL...even with the adjusted maths it is a very sad indictment on US society that you are so much living in fear that you feel that you need 1.2 guns per person to be safe.

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