Most of the Western world knows that the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is responsible for safety and security at US airports.
TSA agents are visible as the screeners at the airport security points. We know them as the folks who sometimes yell at us or sometimes cajole us us to take our belts and shoes off. They xray carry-on luggage and will sometimes hand-search it for contents in the bag itself and in any hidden pockets and false walls.
They are responsible for confiscating any dangerous goods including knives and guns. The number of guns confiscated from passengers trying to board planes in the U.S. rose by 20 per cent in 2013. This is the third year gun confiscations have risen and the increase this year, was the highest.
1,828 guns, or five guns per day, were confiscated from passengers. This compares to 1525 in 2012 and 1320 in 2011. The most common guns were the .380 and 9mm making up half of all the confiscated guns.
One or more guns were discovered at 207 airports with 80 airports having ten or more confiscated. The country’s busiest airport: Atlanta led the way with 110 removed from passengers:
- Atlanta (busiest US airport): 110 guns
- DFW (fifth busiest airport): 98 guns
- Houston (12th busiest): 67 guns
- Phoenix (11th): 65 guns
- Denver (6th): 52 guns
- Nashville (35th): 49 guns – 94% were loaded
- Orlando (13th): 47 guns
- Seattle (15th): 46 guns
- Fort Lauderdale (21st): 42 guns
- Las Vegas (10th): 39 guns
Of concern, was that 84 per cent of the guns were loaded when TSA agents discovered them during the security screening process. Of those loaded, one in three had a bullet in the chamber, ready to fire. The data is from the Medill National Security Journalism Initiative
According to ” href=”http://www.tsa.gov/traveler-information/firearms-and-ammunition”>the rules, it is illegal to carry a handgun aboard a commercial airliner. Unloaded guns may be placed in checked baggage in a locked, hard-sided container.
When a gun is found at a security checkpoint, the TSA will notifiy local law enforcement. It is the local authorities who decide whether to arrest an individual or issue them with a ticket. The November 1st shooting at LAX (Los Angeles International Airport) which resulted in the death of a TSA officer has increased sensitivity of guns at airports.
Are the people trying to smuggle guns on board “criminals”? In Tampa, Florida, of the 36 guns seized in 2013, five of the owners had no valid permit, and one was a felon in possession. Another had an expired permit. The others, it seems were “simply forgetting that they’re armed with deadly weapons and losing track of their guns’ whereabouts,” (David Waldman, “Guns Fail” blog on the Daily Kos. Those people were released and given a notice to appear in court.
Tip: Watch what you are putting in your carry on. If its a real or toy gun, think again!