In 2023, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) intercepted a total of 6,737 firearms at airport security checkpoints, preventing them from getting into the secure areas of the airport and on board aircraft. Approximately 93% of these firearms were loaded. This total surpasses the previous year’s record of 6,542 firearms stopped at checkpoints and represents the highest one-year total in TSA’s history.
“We are still seeing far too many firearms at TSA checkpoints, and what’s particularly concerning is the amount of them that are loaded, presenting an unnecessary risk to everyone at the TSA checkpoint,” said TSA Administrator David Pekoske. “Firearms and ammunition are strictly prohibited in carry-on baggage. Passengers are only allowed to travel with an unloaded firearm, and only if they pack it properly in a locked, hard-sided case in their checked baggage and first declare it to the airline at the check-in counter.”
In 2023, TSA screened more than 858 million individuals, which indicates the agency intercepted 7.8 firearms per million passengers, a drop from 8.6 per million passengers in 2022.
In the fourth quarter of 2023, transportation security officers (TSOs) stopped 1,665 firearms at checkpoints – an average of 18 per day.
Some airports and regions bucked the nationwide trend. For example, TSOs stopped 20 handguns at upstate New York airport security checkpoints in 2023, a decrease from the 23 caught in 2022.
When a firearm is detected at a security checkpoint, TSOs immediately contact local law enforcement, who remove the passenger and the firearm from the checkpoint area. Depending on local laws, the law enforcement officer may arrest or cite the passenger. TSA does not confiscate firearms.
In addition to any action taken by law enforcement, TSA fines passengers who bring a firearm to a TSA checkpoint with a civil penalty up to approximately US$15,000, revokes TSA PreCheck eligibility for at least five years and may conduct enhanced screening to ensure there are no other threats present.
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