TSA seizes record high 3,957 guns at airports in 2017

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Transportation Security Administration officials seized a record-high 3,957 guns in passenger carry-on bags at airport checkpoints in 2017, nearly five times the number seized a decade ago, the agency announced Tuesday.

That number is up more than 500 compared to the 3,391 guns seized in 2016.

Of the nearly 4,000 firearms found on travelers, 3,324 or 84 percent were loaded with ammunition, and 1,378 of those had a round chambered, according to new data.

An average of 10.8 weapons were found each day.

The Department of Homeland Security agency reported seizing guns at 239 airports, but Atlanta, Dallas, and Houston saw the highest apprehension rates. TSA agents at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport found 245 weapons last year, including 31 guns in August, or one a day.

Officials at Dallas/Fort Worth International seized 211 guns, and TSA at George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston seized 142.

TSA attributed the spike to an overall increase in air travel passengers, not necessarily an underlying terror threat.

“While it’s impossible to ascertain an exact, scientific reason for the increase, there does seem to be a correlation between the increase in the number of firearms caught and the increase in passenger volume,” TSA spokesman Mike England previously told the Washington Examiner.

Air travel in 2017 hit a record-high 771.5 million passengers at the 440 airports the agency oversees. That’s up more than 30 million from the 738.3 million people TSA screened in 2016.

The number of loaded and unloaded firearms apprehended by officers has increased every year over the past decade. In 2007, the Department of Homeland Security agency documented 803 guns discovered at airport checkpoints. That number ticked up a few dozen in the first year, then began climbing a few hundred each year after. By 2014, TSA reported 2,212 gun seizures and then 2,653 in 2015.

“The number-one excuse that people give us for why they have their gun with them at a checkpoint is that they forgot that they had their gun with them. The second-most common excuse is that their husband or wife packed their bag. Neither of those excuses fly,” TSA Acting Director of Media Relations Lisa Farbstein previously told the Washington Examiner.

Firearm possession laws vary with state and local laws. However, firearms must be unloaded and locked in a hard-sided container and transported as checked baggage.

All parts, including ammunition, must be declared at the airline ticket counter during the check-in process. Those who do not follow the law can be arrested and fined up to $11,000.