Rate of Airline Passengers Caught With Firearms Doubles in 2020

Rate of Airline Passengers Caught With Firearms Doubles in 2020
Rate of Airline Passengers Caught With Firearms Doubles in 2020

Washington, D.C.-(Ammoland.com)- Airlines have been hit hard with a steep drop in passengers, with Americans traveling less than they have in years due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. With fewer people in the country flying, you would think guns confiscated at airports would be at an all-time low rate, but that isn’t the case.

According to a Transportation Security Administration (TSA) press release, the agency found firearms at double the rate the agents found in 2019. TSA officers discovered 3,257 passengers carrying guns on their person or in their carry-on bags. Of these discovered firearms, flyers had 83% of these guns loaded. The rate of passengers caught with firearms by TSA agents in 2020 was the highest in the agency’s 19-year history.

In 2019, the agency recovered 4,432 firearms from flyers, but agents screened 500 million fewer passengers in 2020. The stats broke down to 5 guns per million flyers in 2019 and 10 firearms per million travelers in 2020. The TSA did not include toys, replicas, improperly checked firearms or BB guns in its stats.

“I commend our officers for their commitment to TSA’s security mission by identifying and stopping these weapons at the TSA checkpoints. Firearms are strictly prohibited on board planes in the passenger cabin,” said Senior Official Performing the Duties of TSA Administrator Darby LaJoye. “Bringing a firearm to a TSA security checkpoint poses a serious risk to TSA officer and passenger safety, and doing so may result in significant fines or arrest.”

TSA agents stopping passengers with firearms took place at 234 of the country’s busiest airports. Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) topped the list with the TSA finding 220 passengers with guns in 2020. The Georgia airport happens to be the nation’s most-used airport and is the central hub for airline giant Delta, Frontier, and Southwest airlines.

According to the TSA, local law enforcement is the one that decides if charges are filed against passengers who brings a gun to a TSA checkpoint. The federal agency will, however, make the traveler pay civil penalties for the transgression. The penalty assessed by the TSA depends on several key factors. These factors include if the traveler has been caught previously with a gun at a TSA check and how many times, they have violated the law. Each time a traveler is found with a gun at a TSA checkpoint, the penalty against the passenger increases. Also, the civil penalty lodged by the TSA is larger if the firearm is loaded.

It is not illegal for a flyer to travel by plane with a firearm, but the traveler must declare the gun at the airline check-in counter, and the firearm must be stored in the traveler’s checked bag. The firearm also cannot be loaded and must be in a TSA approved locked hard-sided case. Ammunition must be in the original box but can be in the same locked hard-sided case.

There are 8.4 million new gun owners in the United States. It might be new owners not knowing the laws governing flying with a firearm.

About John Crump

John is a NRA instructor and a constitutional activist. John has written about firearms, interviewed people of all walks of life, and on the Constitution. John lives in Northern Virginia with his wife and sons and can be followed on Twitter at @crumpyss, or at www.crumpy.com.

John Crump

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If you are under 60 and did not go to parochial school you have probably never heard these words: With every right comes responsibility. So here is the gig. How does one go an entire adult life, say age 17 on without ever having a negligent discharge? How does one command rifle platoons and companies in combat without ever having negligent discharges or losing weapons? How does one carry a firearm every day without ever transgressing such as folks who “forget” to take their gun out of their belts or purses and put them in TSA approved cases for air… Read more »


I agree with you nrringlee, owning and carrying firearms is an individual right in this country. Too many are incapable of taking responsibility for their own actions, and worse, take their responsibility of personal citizenship for granted. The philosophers of our Founding Father’s time, did shape their way of thinking which helped form the framework and construction of our Nation’s Constitution. Unfortunately, the liberal social controllers and liberal media, manipulate all aspects of how they want us to view the World. We the citizens of this Nation, are slowly letting our rights and privileges slide away in a a non-recoverable… Read more »


It’s crazy, isn’t it? The founding fathers would be furious at the thought that government should be telling business owners what they should charge for products they made.

They would be shaking their heads when they see people begging for the government to get more and more powerful and intrusive because they believe they are entitled to buy ammo at a price they deem to be “fair.”

“Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom. It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves.”


I suppose you have NEVER left something behind, such as car keys, maybe a tool, cell phone, forgot to pay attention to the position of the needle on the fuel guage, left home without your wallet/ID/money for a quick trip” into town, left the lid off the butter dish so the cat got into it, or any other such thing? The travesty of this situationis not that people can/have innocently forgotten to deal “appropriately” with their handgun, but that anyone is now forced, under harsh consequences, to do so. I am completely comfortable tih the thougth that, anywhere I happen… Read more »

The Crimson Pirate

Lack of responsibility is the problem, but not in the way you think. People are not trusted by the government. They have never been trained in this responsibility. They are not used to owning and carrying guns. Suddenly they feel compelled to get one, but they are not part of the culture. Those who lead platoons and companies have extensive training, as do the members of those platoons and companies. A marketing executive flying to LA who just her first gun at the age of 35 having never been around one doesn’t have a clue. The draconian regulations are obscure,… Read more »


Somehow I am not convinced that those who were “caught” with their handguns where THEY decree they cannot be possessed are NOT amongst the something point whatever million new gun owners.


Most millennials are familiar with the concept as well – or at least theoretically familiar. My kids dragged me to see Spider-Man whose catch phrase is In the same vein.
“With great power comes great responsibility”


Trying to carry firearms on an commercial aircraft? I’m paranoid about carrying one in my car. The government doesn’t trust its citizens and their actions bear this out. Fortunately our 2nd Amendment so far keeps these vipers from total restriction but democrats are relentless.


It does seem rather odd (and perhaps outlandish) that our government’s initial, base, knee-jerk reaction to any/every problem… is to distrust its own citizens. Something’s drastically wrong there…


“something” like trust? And/or lack thereof?



uncle dudley

Is this press release just another rally cry by the anti-gun administration that just took over the government to further their upcoming demand for more stricter gun laws, or is it a department just patting themselves on the back in order to get more funding for their budget. Anyone who owns a firearm should have know what the rules are about flying with a gun, the TSA have for years limited what can be carried on an airline, from open tubes of toothpaste, nail clippers,etc…. Mistakes do happen, but carrying a firearm comes with thought and care and being in… Read more »

Ryben Flynn

Going by percentages again. If the actual number of guns found stayed exactly the same as the year before, but the number of passengers decreased, then of course the RATE would go up.
Just like the lie they tell that gun ownership is going down, when it reality the actual number is going up. They go by the number of households with guns which rises slower than the total number of households.
It’s all how the data gets manipulated.


Bringing a firearm to a TSA security checkpoint poses a serious risk ONLY when those having them are up to no good. When one crries a firearm daily everywher, it is difficult to realise sometimgs that it can’t be carried HERE. This is fear mongering and grandstanding by TSA. “SEE??!?? We are keeping everyone SO SAAAAAAAAAFE. Bow down to us.” I know folks who have almost gotten nabbed on this one, remembering at the last minute that their gun HERE is a no no. Not because it poses any more danger than that gun has posed in the last week,… Read more »


@Tionico said “Not for quite a few years”. 9/11/1 was 18 1/2 years ago. Still important, but not within the last few years. Care is needed lest we suffer additional attacks, BUT current restrictions and oversight are excessive, intrusive, and ineffective. Heard once that most travelers nabbed with firearms were not on their first flight. That means there is a high probability they had that firearm on preceding connecting flight or when they flew the other direction. Ratios suggest that in fact tsa finds only a small fraction of firearms carried aboard. Proving once again that while security theatre may… Read more »

American Patriot

The Govt. (TSA) workers have already proved how inapt they are at screening, now that there is 60-70% less people flying but no reduction in workers obviously they might stumble across more in the X-ray during there fakebook posts!


I have about as bad a memory as anyone else. I carry two guns without exception every time I set foot past the threshold of my door. I go places that have signs posted “no weapons” such as banks, the post office, hospitals, schools even when required and such. One is always hidden. The other is openly carried, but is easily covered by a shirt or jacket. And I consciously do so when I see the sign. Three places in over thirty years of carry in this manner have seen me asked to leave. Salvation Army thrift store in Prescott… Read more »

Get Out

Simple enough, just declare the weapon and don’t try to hide it.

“It is not illegal for a flyer to travel by plane with a firearm, but the traveler must declare the gun at the airline check-in counter, and the firearm must be stored in the traveler’s checked bag. The firearm also cannot be loaded and must be in a TSA approved locked hard-sided case. Ammunition must be in the original box but can be in the same locked hard-sided case.”


here we have the first time democrat gun owners who have never had proper training in responsibility,not just guns they dont say please and thank you either

Last edited 1 year ago by swmft
Get Out

If you can help them. Offer to help them understand functioning and handling safety if you can. Steer them to organized training with a certified instructor if possible. Better to step in and ask if they need help than to wait for them to have a fatal mistake with their firearm.

Happy Everafter

I have a question about the lead photo – it appears to be some artist’s rendition of an over-the-shoulder carry-on soft case in an x-ray with a rather large cocked revolver. I can’t believe anyone puts a cocked revolver into a briefcase or overnight bag. Even the folks who forget they have one….


I have been reading for months now about all of the new gun owners (hooray!). This is a graphic way to see thatmany of the new gun owners NEED TRAINING.


I want to know why and how much things have changed from pre-gun control to now. The assertion, “Bringing a firearm to a TSA security checkpoint poses a serious risk to TSA officer and passenger safety”. I am sure people did carry firearms on planes early on. Are things really so much more dangerous now? How is the security checkpoint different from all the other places people carry? Can you deny people their rights for a supposed increase in security. If you can do it at airports, why not everywhere there are people? I know the answer. This is a… Read more »


When did it become illegal to carry a gun on a plane?
October 22, 1968
Gun Control Act of 1968


Certainly the easily alarmed civilian worker has something to do with this. I’d like to see a stronger hiring/vetting process with TSA employees. I also wouldn’t mind replacing them with military personnel. A show of American force could scare the fool out of any potential terrorist.


Yes, less intimidate and manhandle business travelers even more. If some guy rolls their eyes at the heroic military personnel, show ’em what fer. Don’t you just hate civilians?

Get Out

No, the military has no business screening passengers, keep them out of it.


The idea of giving such unrestricted power to so many under-educated and out-of-shape citizens seems incredibly unsafe to me. Quite frankly, I see virtually no difference between a typical TSA agent and a Walmart employee. I’d rather hire someone trained in combat and the use/handling of firearms over some 300 lbs. woman who throws a hissy fit at the sight of a pistol. The TSA itself *is* government intervention of private citizen’s lives and business. But if active military personnel make some feel uneasy, then we should at least hire those with either a military or law enforcement background. If… Read more »

Last edited 1 year ago by JNew
Get Out

Just declare the weapon and put it in your checked baggage, don’t try to hide it. No military.


Awhile ago, a poster wanted 22 million veterans to be deputized as Special Deputy US Marshals so they could become “first responders” and be everywhere.

Respond first to what?

Why would anyone want LEOs to be everywhere?

Why is there this urge to turn the United States of America into a police state?

Last edited 1 year ago by JSNMGC

I don’t know. The guy could have good intentions and was just concerned about all the mostly violent riots that were not being stopped.

Sometimes good intentions have unintended consequences.


Maybe everyone will just decide to leave each other alone and we can get back to a free civilization, with good (but fewer) laws, good LEOs who enforce those good laws, and a good military (that is more mission capable and less expensive) that is not used unless its necessary.

People could, you know, be free to enjoy life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.


Do you agree that what I wrote is what we should be striving for?

When we see a police officer walking down the street we wave and say hello?

That we return to the days of having Memorial Day parades to honor those who served and died in wars?

That the size, scope, intrusiveness, and cost of government is reduced?

That people are fundamentally allowed to keep the fruit of their labor?


We are discussing the future, so there is no certainty.

There are folks who want to go in the opposite direction, starting with more laws.


@JSNMGC – We have plenty of first responders as we are all first responders. Just this morning my wife was first responder providing aid to an elderly woman attacked by a dog on our quite street. Fortunately dog was more attempting to play rather than attack, as it could easily have killed the woman after knocking her down – injuries are still life altering due to age and infirmity. All we were really able to do was call an ambulance, provide warmth, staunch bleeding and comfort her while staving off shock (real risk to elderly, injured and now sedentary person… Read more »


Sorry to hear about the woman.

I agree that we have more than enough people enforcing laws. It sounds like Biden disagrees. It’s really strange which laws are enforced and which laws are not enforced.


Seems to be working rather well in Israel. The difference is how we treat our soldiers.


The difference is a completely different form of government.

I’ve spent time there – no thank you.

Since this is a gun rights discussion board: