Why is TSA Finding More Guns In Carry-Ons?

TSA Pre-Check Line
TSA Pre-Check Line
Firearms Policy Coalition
Firearms Policy Coalition

USA -(Ammoland.com)- Bringing a gun into an airport checkpoint is a really big mistake, but as more people carry more frequently, such mistakes are bound to happen.

The Transportation Security Administration is reporting that the number of guns discovered at security checkpoints at our nation's airports has been steadily growing in recent years.

TSA says they confiscated 2,653 guns from airline passengers in 2015, and are on track to break that record this year. They have been averaging a little more than seven guns a day at airport security checkpoints nationwide.

There's no question that 2,653 guns at airport checkpoints is way too many, especially when every gun owner should be fully aware that it is a felony-stupid thing to do, but a little context can help to bring that number into better perspective.

As mentioned earlier, there are more people legally carrying more often than ever before, but how many make up that “more?”

First, it is estimated that there are as many as 400 million guns in civilian hands in the U.S., and approximately 2 million guns are sold each month through licensed dealers. Gun sales have been climbing exponentially, particularly over the 8 years of the Obama Administration.

Surveys suggest that there are guns in 30 to 40 percent of U.S. homes, with the rate being much higher in rural states where 80 percent, or more, homes contain firearms. Estimates put actual gun owner numbers at somewhere between 75 and 100 million, with over 15 million licensed to carry concealed firearms.

It's anyone's guess how many more people carry in the dozen states where no licensing is required. All of this adds up to “more” meaning a whole bunch of people who might have a legally carried gun in a purse or pack.

Second, the TSA inspects and clears some 2 million airline passengers every day – over 700 million per year – at over 400 airports nationwide. That's a whole bunch of people too.

With close to 1/3 of the adult population having arms at hand, and at least 20% of those legally carrying a gun in public at least occasionally, the idea of 7 people out of 2 million, inadvertently carrying their gun into an airport checkpoint, doesn't seem quite so outrageous. That amounts to only 0.00035 percent of airline passengers.

It's also worth noting that the busiest airport in the world is located in the center of the “gun-friendly” South – Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson – and is the airport where the highest number of guns are discovered. In fact, 13 of the 31 busiest airports in the world are in the U.S., and 9 of those busiest airports are in gun-friendly states with “shall-issue” concealed carry licensing: Atlanta, Dallas-Ft. Worth, Denver, Las Vegas, Charlotte, Miami, Phoenix, Houston, and Seattle-Tacoma.

These aren't people planning to hijack a plane or commit an act of terrorism. They are people who got busy and forgot that they still had their pistol in the special gun pocket of their purse, or tucked into the bottom of their backpack.

All sorts of people have run afoul of the checkpoints. One was an NBA team executive who was caught with a gun in a carry-on bag on the return leg from Newark, New Jersey – the gun was undetected on the outbound leg.

Another was former NBA superstar Bill Russell. Others have included a congressman, and a notoriously anti-gun Illinois state senator from Chicago.

Leaving a gun in a carry-on is a relatively easy mistake to make in a society where guns are common, and where many people are so comfortable with their presence. And though it is a foolish mistake to make, it is not a dangerous one – except in the legal sense.

TSA screens every bag and passenger, and even if the gun somehow made it onto the plane, it is only dangerous if there is a person with evil intent, and knowledge of the gun's presence. It can't just “go off” from being bumped around, and even if it were to discharge somehow, a bullet through the fuselage or a window will not cause the plane to explode or violently decompress.

That only happens in the movies.

As a right-to-carry advocate, I take the issue of people being found with guns at airport checkpoints very seriously. It makes my side look bad, makes my job harder, and scares the less-knowledgeable public. This is just one reason that I strongly recommend “on-body” – in a holster on their belt or elsewhere on their person – rather than “off-body” in a bag, briefcase, or purse.

Not only is a gun carried on-body quicker in a crisis, and harder to steal, it is also much less likely to be forgotten or overlooked in preparing for a flight.

Guns are tools. In some segments of our society, they are very common tools. All gun owners should know and understand that their license does not apply on airplanes, and it is extremely foolish and irresponsible to ever carry a gun into an airport security checkpoint. Regardless of how unintentional it might be, there will be a significant price to pay for doing so. Your gun is your responsibility – always.

For non-gun owners, don't let the media hype get you worried. Yes, guns at checkpoints are becoming a more frequent occurrence as gun ownership and carry are becoming more common, but it's still statistically rare, and these aren't terrorists or gang-bangers, they're poor schlubs who got in too big a rush and made a stupid and expensive, though relatively benign mistake.

They will regret it, but they are not putting you at risk.

 

About Jeff Knox:

Jeff Knox is a second-generation political activist and director of The Firearms Coalition.

Firearms Coalition co-director Jeff Knox addresses Gala for Gun Rights. Photo: Michael Honeycutt, http://michaelhoneycutt.us/
Firearms Coalition co-director Jeff Knox addresses Gala for Gun Rights. Photo: Michael Honeycutt, http://michaelhoneycutt.us/
Firearms Coalition co-director Jeff Knox addresses Gala for Gun Rights. Photo: Michael Honeycutt, http://michaelhoneycutt.us/
Firearms Coalition co-director Jeff Knox addresses Gala for Gun Rights. Photo: Michael Honeycutt, http://michaelhoneycutt.us/

His writing can regularly be seen in Shotgun News and Front Sight magazines as well as here on AmmoLand Shooting Sports News.

Jeff Knox is active in the Firearms Coalition is a loose-knit coalition of individual Second Amendment activists, clubs and civil rights organizations.

Founded Jeff’s dad, Neal Knox in 1984, the organization provides support to grassroots activists in the form of education, analysis of current issues, and with a historical perspective of the gun rights movement.

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MattNijafawndaBob ThornburghRon HRoscoethehat Recent comment authors
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Matt
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Matt

I was one of those legal cc permit holders that made the simple but costly mistake. I was questioned by TSA, local and federal authorities. It was a joint decision by all parties to seiz my weapon but upon my return flight it was returned. I also was notified by mail that TSA was issuing a fine of $3000 but if I made restitution within 30days that fine was reduced to $1500. Like I said a costly mistake but none the less I was treated fairly. Lesson learned.

Nijafawnda
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Nijafawnda

So funny grampa! So funny.

Bob Thornburgh
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Bob Thornburgh

My wife and I flew to Milwaukee from San Antonio. Normally we take our firearms with us but this trip we were visiting relatives in Illinois for much of our stay and so decided not to on this occasion as we wouldn’t be allowed to carry in that state. My wife flies throughout the country on business several times a month and brings her concealed carry purse with her when she travels so that she can carry her weapon upon arrival at her destination. Well, she removed the weapon from her purse before we left San Antonio, but what she… Read more »

Ron H
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Ron H

TSA hires some very low IQ people. Before 9/11, Joe Foss was flying out of Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport when luggage checker called his supervisor over. He thought he had found a ninja throwing star. Supervisor looked at Foss’s Medal Of Honor, saluted him and wished him a good day.

Ronald Parks
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Ronald Parks

I knew a guy who had this happen to him years ago when they didn’t allow you to carry on board but the penalties were not so harsh. Both he and his wife carried (legally) but she was going to a place where carry was either not legal or not appropriate and stashed her little .25 auto in his bag. She just forgot that she put it there and he never knew! Days later, he had to go on a flight and grabbed that bag to use as a carry-on. He was more shocked than anyone when it showed up… Read more »

Doug
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Doug

I believe that if you have a permit to carry in one state, say your home state, and you are flying to a state with reciprocity with your state, you can declare the firearm, unloaded of course, and pick it up when you land on the other end.

Tionico
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Tionico

it must be in the checked luggage, the firearm unloaded and packed in a locked hard sided case, all ammunition in a separate locked hard sided case, in factory packaging (NOT in magazines or loose), declared at the ticket counter, and most often inspected through a separate line. I’ve had that stupid process take a full hour, almost missing my flight. Having a Mother May I Card to carry concealed makes no difference, nor does your right to carry or not in the destination state make any difference. However, if you check a firearm secured in checked luggage and land… Read more »

Jim in Conroe
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Jim in Conroe

It’s not only TSA, but if you attempt to check a firearm in your checked luggage in NJ or NY, the airline person at the counter will call the airport police and you will be arrested. If you arrive at one of these airports with a firearm in your checked luggage, you will be ok, as long as no one knows you have the fire arm, but you are still in violation of the law. Your best course of action is to rent a car and get out of the state. Obey all traffic laws and don’t get stopped by… Read more »

Dave Eckart
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Dave Eckart

The cases that I have read about regarding firearms found in NJ and NY airports were all due to flights being re-directed and landing in NJ and NY where the passenger had to re-check their bag, at which time one is required to inform he/she has a firearm. At that point they get arrested due to no fault of their own. That is the real crime.

Matt
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Matt

Instead of taking the course one can always join the military and take those skills to a practical real life experiences.

Gregory Romeu
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Gregory Romeu

When a person goes through a conceal carry course, armed security course or any other instruction to get a permit or license that involves carrying a gun ALL of this is explained to them prior to their getting photographed, fingerprinted or signing the douments prior to recieving these licenses or permits. Then again, there is always, “GOOGLE”?

Dave Eckart
Guest
Dave Eckart

I recall a number of years ago, when preparing for my return trip, I inadvertently put my pocket knife in my pocket, instead of the bag that was to be checked, when readying to leave the hotel room to go to the airport. At the TSA checkpoint, I put my hand in my pocket to remove my car keys, and discovered my knife. I immediately told the agent I had a pocket knife. He said it was no issue, just go back to the airline counter and recall my checked bag. I did that and then went through security without… Read more »

Big Bill
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Big Bill

“First, to be guilty of breaking a law, you need intent.”

No. That’s wrong.
And this article proves that.
It’s illegal to bring a gun through the TSA checkpoint. The law doesn’t say you have to intend to do so, it says it’s illegal to do so. (OK, it actually says it’s illegal to bring a gun onto a plane, but you get the idea.)
While intent is often argued in some cases, in others, intent just doesn’t enter into the equation.
In still other cases, people are found guilty of breaking a law they never even knew about, making intent impossible.

Gregory Romeu
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Gregory Romeu

That’s where our judicial system uses the excuse, “Ignorance of the law is no excuse”.

Tionico
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Tionico

no, the concept that breaking a law does NOT require intent is what is wrong. If I MEAN no harm, and no one IS harmed, WHERE is the crime? The concept of administrative law is a relatively new one, and is one of the biggest problems limiting liberty in this culture. WHY do we have the checkpoints anyway? Because people DO FORGET. I had to renew a passport a few years ago, time senstive so I made an appointment at the place in the nearby big city and drove there so I could get it in one day. Paid dearly… Read more »

Garth
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Garth

I can easily understand how it can happen. I once had to surrender my favorite Swiss Army knife because in the rush to get to the airport I forgot to leave it home.

Jim in Conroe
Guest
Jim in Conroe

What sort of penalties are people caught with a firearm in their carry on getting? Gun confiscation? Fines? Jail time?

What happens to guns confiscated by TSA? Are they auctioned? Destroyed? Ever returned to the owner?

Gregory Romeu
Guest
Gregory Romeu

It’s called, “GOOGLE”.

DRAINO
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DRAINO

Seriously!! When did getting on a super-confined flying capsule mean you loose your right to self-defense? The TSA IS stealing these weapons and placing an undue burden on US citizens. And a problem that is so easily fixed. It’s typical though…..blame the citizens if there’s an issue. The problem COULDN’t possibly be the govt agency or the misguided laws. People traveled with firearms back in the days of the founding fathers. Arguably, were expected to. The world is a dangerous place. It doesn’t become less dangerous just because you are traveling somewhere.

Gregory Romeu
Guest
Gregory Romeu

… could that have been because they were actively involved in maintaining their government and the government officials instead of sitting on her butt playing video games or watching sports or whatever other excuses that people these days use for a distraction of doing their Duty as a citizen and MAINTAING THEIR GOVERNMENT?

Tionico
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Tionico

NO. NOT SO. INtent means you MEANT to do it. How stupid do you think the average gun owning traveller is? If they INTENDeD to carry a handgun onto an airplane in the cabin, they’d NOT just leave it in the bottom of a purse. A carefully disguised or obscured placement of the gun to as to make detection unlikely would demonstarte intent. YOU obviously don’t carry one yourself.. it becomes part of you as much as your shoes….. or hat. Carrying everywhere for years the gun is simply part of you when you go out the door. Libary, bank,… Read more »

Ron H
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Ron H

@Tionico,
I agree. It is not always careless. It can be habit to have the weapon on you. Every day I put my wallet, watch, knife, police ID, cuffs, and handgun(s) on my person. I caught myself walking through Phoenix Sky Harbor to catch a flight, when I remembered I still had S&W M36 on my ankle.

Cyberats
Guest
Cyberats

That’s a minimum of $400 per handgun STOLEN. You do the math.
Dismantle the TSA.

Roscoethehat
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Roscoethehat

BEST ANSWER YET

SuperG
Guest
SuperG

So this is where I say the TSA and our government is hostile towards its citizens. First, to be guilty of breaking a law, you need intent. Forgetting you have a gun in your bag does not constitute intent. Why therefore can’t the innocent citizen pay to have it shipped to an FFL near him, or put it in a TSA locker for him to retrieve upon return? We can spend 20 billion on a destroyer incapable of maintaining propulsion from one coast to another, but we can’t spend anything in helping our own citizens? Donald, here’s an easy job… Read more »

Jim in Conroe
Guest
Jim in Conroe

Some crimes don’t require criminal intent. For example mishandling classified material doesn’t require intent to be in violation of the law. Oh, wait. If your name is Clinton . . .

However, it is illegal to carry a firearm on board an airplane. Having one in your carry on demonstrates intent.

Dave Eckart
Guest
Dave Eckart

It is also illegal to bring many other items on board the airplane, and according to your statement, having it in your carry-on is intent. However, nothing else is prosecuted as a crime; bottles of water, over 3.4 ounces of liquids or fluids, lighters, pocket knives, etc. A number of years ago inadvertently put my pocket knife in my pocket when readying to leave the hotel room on a return trip home. When I got to the TSA security and checked my pockets, there was the knife. I immediately informed the agent that I had a pocket knife on me.… Read more »

Jim in Conroe
Guest
Jim in Conroe

You make a good point about the list of prohibited items. I suppose that theoretically you could be prosecuted for attempting to board an aircraft with a bottle of water, but of course you don’t pose much of a threat, if you had ill intent, with a bottle of water.

You do have the option of checking your firearm, if you have inadvertently left it in your carry on bag. But it’s a little late to do this at the security check point, when it is discovered by TSA.

Dave Eckart
Guest
Dave Eckart

Which is why I stated it shouldn’t be a crime to possess it because until the point of discovery there is no crime committed. If I brought a knife on board an airplane, that is a crime, but at the point of discovery at the TSA checkpoint, it isn’t a crime.

Gregory Romeu
Guest
Gregory Romeu

We are already known as the, “Regulation Nation” because our government or special interest groups feel we need a new law or regulation needs to be produced each time there is an act of stupidity commited that catches their attention. ENOUGH ALREADY! Treat the stupidity with a stay at the, “Gray Bar Hotel” and let the rest of us go on with our lives! Just how many signs do the supposedly, “responsible” gun-toter pass when going into an airport check-point REMINDING THEM that it is illegal to enter these areas with a gun? If THIS is the level of awarness… Read more »

Dave
Guest
Dave

Jeff, You would have to go a long distance to find someone who is more pro carry than I am. However, when someone unintentionally carries a weapon onto a commercial flight that exhibits ignorance and gross negligence towards others and I do believe that you should have to forfeit the weapon and the right to conceal carry for one year at a minimum. A loaded weapon is just as dangerous as a hand grenade with a loose pin. If you don’t know where it is located and how it is secured at all times, you automatically lose the “I carry… Read more »

Colonialgirl
Guest
Colonialgirl

Pure poppycock, ignorance and bullshyte.
You spew like an anti-gun moron .