TSA Confiscates an Average of more than 3 Loaded Guns a Day at Airports

Monday, January 07, 2013
Guns and knives confiscated by TSA (photo: TSA)

The number of weapons confiscated at American airports is increasing, according to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), which detected more than 1,500 firearms in 2012, up from about 1,300 in 2011. Nearly 85 percent of the weapons, or about 1,260, were loaded—which is illegal. Under TSA rules, passengers with proper permits may fly with unloaded guns stored in hard-sided checked baggage, but not in carry-on items or on a passenger.


Atop the list sits the world’s busiest airport, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, which confiscated more than 100 guns in 2012, followed by 78 at Dallas/Ft. Worth International Airport, 53 at Phoenix, and 49 at Houston.


But if one accounts for airport size by measuring gun confiscations per passenger enplaned, Atlanta falls nearly to the bottom with a rate of 2.03 guns seized per million enplanements, far behind list leader Provo, Utah, Municipal Airport, with its rate of 134.6 guns per million. Provo is followed by Roswell, Arizona, at 80.51; Dickinson, North Dakota, at 52.6; Elko, Nevada, at 42.48; Joplin, Missouri, at 36.5; Ft. Smith, Arkansas, at 35.6; and Lafayette, Louisiana, at 34.42.


Counting only the 31 large airports with at least 500,000 enplanements, Portland International in Portland, Oregon, led with 3.82 guns per million, followed by Ft. Lauderdale/Hollywood, Florida, at 3.62, Tampa, Florida, at 3.55, and St. Louis, Missouri, at 3.25.


The most common type of gun confiscated was the .380 semiautomatic pistol, although TSA also seized stun guns, grenades, spear guns, and rocket launchers.


From December 14 to 21, the week after the school massacre in Newtown, Conn., TSA noted a small increase in weapons seized, with screeners detecting 11 passengers with stun guns, 3 with grenades and 34 with guns. “It does concern us that this number is rising,” said Lisa Farbstein, an agency spokeswoman. “But we will not speculate on the causes.”

-Matt Bewig


To Learn More:

Rise in Guns Confiscated at Airports (by Robbie Brown, New York Times)

Guns Seized by TSA at US airports (TSA)

Firearms and Ammunition: Traveling with Special Items (TSA)


Bob Burns 11 years ago
Hi. Bob Burns here from the TSA Blog. I just got the final numbers today for firearms discovered at TSA checkpoints in 2012 and it actually comes out to over 4 firearms a day. Check out my latest blog post for all of the stats and a list of some of the more unique items our officers discovered this year. http://blog.tsa.gov/2013/01/a-look-at-dangerous-scary-and-downright.html Thanks! Bob Burns TSA Blog Team
Bill Fisher 11 years ago
Is this news because these incompetents actually managed to do their job and find contraband or is it just TSA propaganda so they can continue to waste our money and molest our children? The media doesn’t report every successful pizza delivery by Dominos so why is TSA any different? TSA has wasted billions of dollars on full body scanners, groping children and strip searching elderly women, but as usual finds every item on the x-ray belt in use over 20 years ago. Only five items have been found by body scanners since their deployment in 2008. Based on GAO tests, for every gun intercepted one or two others get through. Despite these failures nothing ever happens. Spending $80 billion in ten years to fund an agency made up of uneducated bullies with two page rap sheets is not a celebration, it’s a tragedy. TSA has become a jobs program for people who can't get hired anywhere else. TSA even allows a known pedophile, Thomas Harkins to remain employed as a TSA Supervisor in Philadelphia giving him access to search children. What kind of agency turns a known sex offender loose on children? The press has been repeating TSA propaganda and excusing the agency’s failures despite five incidents of drug and gun smuggling, over a hundred criminal arrests including fifteen pedophile TSA screeners. Media pandering to TSA and ignoring its failures is and slowing reform of this troubled agency and making air travel less secure. TSA needs to be replaced.

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