(CNN) — More guns were seized at airports across the United States last year than ever before in the Transportation Security Administration’s 18-year history, the agency reported Wednesday.
The 4,432 firearms detected in carry-on and checked bags at TSA airport checkpoints represent an approximately 5% increase over the 4,239 found in 2018 — and 87% of the firearms found last year were loaded.
“The continued increase in the number of firearms that travelers bring to airport checkpoints is deeply troubling,” said David Pekoske, the TSA’s administrator, in a press release.
“There is a proper way to travel safely with a firearm. First and foremost, it should be unloaded. Then it should be packed in a hard-sided locked case, taken to the airline check-in counter to be declared, and checked.”
The TSA detected the most firearms — 323 — at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, followed by Dallas/Fort Worth International (217); Denver International (140); George Bush Intercontinental in Houston (138); and Phoenix Sky Harbor International (132). Firearms were found at 278 airport checkpoints nationwide.
Travelers who try to bring guns through TSA security are subject to local and state laws, which can lead to arrest and civil penalties.
The TSA can also levy civil fines of up to $13,333 and strip TSA PreCheck travelers of their status. (The average fine for a first offense is $2,400 for an unloaded gun and $3,000 to $4,000 for a loaded gun.)
While travelers, even with permits, cannot carry guns onto an airplane, properly permitted gun owners can travel with their firearms in checked luggage if they follow TSA and airline guidelines. Even if they fly legally with their firearms, they are still subject to local and state gun laws wherever they land.
No fake guns either
Despite rumors to the contrary, the TSA doesn’t actually keep confiscated weapons, TSA spokesman Mark Howell told CNN in December. Loaded guns are turned over to local law enforcement (along with offenders, in some cases).