TSA officials discover more and more firearms in airports each year
Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officials want to reduce the number of guns discovered by encouraging travelers to double check their bags.
This comes after a passenger was stopped at the checkpoint for having a 9mm handgun at the Chattanooga Airport.
So far this year, three guns have been found by TSA officers at the Chattanooga Airport.
That does not land our airport on the top 10 list for firearms discovered, but the majority of the airports on the list are in southern states.
Over the last 10 years, the number of guns found has increased across the United States.
Mark Howell, who is the TSA regional spokesperson, said in 2018, more 4,200 firearms were found in airports. That's 300 more than the year before.
“Prescreening more people year after year, and we have more people with firearms year after year,” Mark Howell said. “The real simple way to put it is more guns, more travelers equals more guns at airports.”
TSA has listed the airports with the highest number of weapons found. Topping the list is Atlanta and nearly ending the list is Nashville.
Howell said seeing higher numbers in states with open carry laws is common.
He said the majority of the time people bring in their guns accidentally.
“The most common excuse we get is 'I forgot it was in my bag,'” Howell explained. “So it's people really not paying attention to what they are bringing with them to the airport.”
Howell said you are allowed to travel with a firearm.
However, it needs to go under the plane instead of on board.
“It needs to be in a hard-sided case with padding,” Howell explained. “The firearm needs to be unloaded. You need to be able to lock the box to secure, and you need to declare it to the airlines.”
Once a weapon is discovered at the checkpoint, local law enforcement has to come and remove it safely.
The passenger could face criminal charges.
“They could cite,” Howell said. “They could arrest. That's really up to the local law enforcement agency whatever the law is.”
Or they could receive a criminal penalty of more than $13,000.
That amount is charged on a case by case basis.
“If it's the first time that they've done it,” Howell said. “If they try to hide it. There is a lot of things that they look at when they make that determination.”
You can find more information about traveling with firearms on the TSA's website.