Authorities have prevented more than 6,000 firearms from passing through airport security checkpoints so far this year, the most in the history of the Transportation Security Administration, officials said.
Of the 6,301 weapons discovered by officers at checkpoints, more than 88% were loaded.
“TSA anticipates it will prevent about 6,600 firearms in carry-on bags from entering the secure area of airports by the end of 2022, an increase of nearly 10 percent from the record level in 2021,” officials said Friday.
Last year, agents discovered 5,972 handguns at checkpoints nationwide, marking what was then an all-time high since the TSA was created 21 years ago and began tracking the discoveries of firearms.
“Firearm possession laws vary by state and local government, but firearms are never allowed in carry-on bags at any TSA security checkpoint, even if a passenger has a permit to ‘hidden weapons,’ officials said.
The TSA said it has increased the maximum civil penalty for these violations to $14,950.
People caught with a gun at a checkpoint will also have their PreCheck eligibility revoked for at least five years.
“Depending on state or local law at the airport location, passengers who bring firearms to a checkpoint may be subject to arrest by law enforcement,” the TSA said.
At Los Angeles International Airport, officers have intercepted slightly fewer firearms this year than last year.
As of Thursday, there were 75 weapons discovered at airport security checkpoints, compared with 89 last year, according to data provided by the TSA.
LAX agents found 43 weapons in 2020, 44 in 2019, 57 in 2018 and 56 in 2017, according to the TSA.
“LAX is home to the nation’s largest and most sophisticated airport police force, with substantial capabilities to detect and deter threats of all types,” said Martin Elam, deputy executive director of security and public safety at Los Angeles World Airports.
Airport police work “hand in hand” with the TSA to respond to reports of firearms that are not properly secured and declared for travel, Elam said.
Passengers are responsible for understanding the rules for traveling with a firearm and the consequences of not following those rules, he said.
“Firearms are prohibited in carry-on bags at the checkpoint and on board aircraft,” TSA Administrator David Pekoske said in a statement. “When a passenger brings a firearm to the checkpoint, it consumes significant security resources and poses a potential threat to the security of the transport, as well as being very costly to the passenger.”
Travelers who wish to fly with firearms must leave them in checked baggage, follow specific guidelines for packing guns and ammunition, and declare them to their airline at check-in.