In what the Transportation Security Administration says is an “alarming problem,” airline passengers are taking firearms to airports in record numbers.
As of October 3, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) reports it has prevented 4,495 airline passengers from carrying firearms on planes this year. While numbers for last year were significantly lower due to fewer people traveling during the COVID-19 pandemic, TSA stopped 4,432 passengers from getting on planes with firearms in 2019.
What’s troubling is that while stopping 4,495 travelers with firearms this year sets a new high record, there are still 11 weeks left in 2021 – including the busy Thanksgiving and holiday travel season.
“The number of firearms that our TSA officers are stopping at airport checkpoints is alarming,” David Pekoske, TSA administrator, said in a statement. “Firearms, particularly loaded firearms, introduce an unnecessary risk at checkpoints, have no place in the passenger cabin of an airplane, and represent a very costly mistake for the passengers who attempt to board a flight with them.”
Pekoske told CNN that the number of people carrying firearms at airports is a reflection of increasing gun ownership across the country.
“I think more people are carrying weapons, just generally across the country, and then whatever is happening across the country we see reflected in our checkpoints,” Pekoske said.
Nonetheless, stopping passengers with firearms becomes increasingly important as the number of unruly passenger reports made by airlines also climbs. Indeed, the Federal Aviation Administration reports that as of October 12, it has received 4,724 unruly passenger reports from airlines this year.
The TSA has had “many more incidents where there are passenger disturbances both in checkpoints and onboard aircraft,” Pekoske told CNN. “As a passenger, I don’t want another passenger flying with me with a gun in their possession.”
About now you may be wondering “What happens to passengers who try to take a firearm on a plane?”
The TSA explains that the penalty for attempting to take an unloaded firearm through a TSA checkpoint ranges from $1,500 to $2,475, plus a criminal referral to local authorities who may criminally prosecute. The penalty for attempting to take a loaded firearm, or unloaded firearms with accessible ammunition, ranges from $3,000 to $10,000, plus a criminal referral to local authorities who may criminally prosecute.
The fines for repeat offenders range from $10,000 to $13,910, plus criminal referral to local authorities.
Know Before You Fly
It must be pointed out that if you are a firearm owner, firearms can be transported by airlines – following strict guidelines.
First, unloaded firearms must be packed in a locked hard-sided container that is a checked bag. The locked case must completely secure the firearm and it must not be able to be opened easily.
Passengers must also declare the firearm and any ammunition to the airline when they are checking the locked container at the ticket counter.
All of the details about properly traveling with a firearm and ammunition can be found on the TSA’s website.
You can read more about TSA stopping passengers with firearms here and the growing number of unruly passenger reports here.