Air traffic is down, gun seizures up at US airports

With air traffic nearing a five-month high, airport security is finding guns in passenger carry-on bags at three times the rate recorded before the pandemic.

And 80% of the guns are loaded.

Officers found 15.3 guns for every million people screened in July, compared with 5.1 per million people in July of last year, the Transportation Security Administration said Monday.

There has been a significant increase in loaded guns at checkpoints, said TSA Administrator David Pekoske. He said screeners are already working in conditions of heightened risks and that “no one should be introducing new ones.”

“Even more concerning is that 80% of the firearms coming into the checkpoint are loaded, and it’s just an accident waiting to happen,” Pekoske said.

It is legal to transport guns in checked bags if they are unloaded and in a locked case. There are federal civil penalties for improperly placing a gun in a carry-on bag, and violators can lose the use of faster-screening programs such as TSA PreCheck, but criminal charges are usually left to local authorities.

Last year, 4,432 guns were found in carry-on bags, or about 12.1 per day, and 87% were loaded.

TSA’s public appeal to follow gun rules came the same day that it reported screening 831,789 people on Sunday. It was the first time checkpoint traffic in U.S. airports has topped 800,000 since March 17. That is still down 69% from the comparable Sunday a year ago.