The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) seized a record number of firearms at airport security checkpoints in 2022, officials say.
TSA officials confiscated a total of 6,542 guns at airports throughout the U.S. in 2022, the highest number recorded since the TSA was established, CBS News reported. While officials find the growing number noteworthy, they don’t believe the stats are indicative of potential hijackers.
“What we see in our checkpoints really reflects what we’re seeing in society, and in society there are more people carrying firearms nowadays,” TSA administrator David Pekoske told CBS. The number of background checks for firearms sales were approximately 7 million in 2000 and increased to 16.4 million in 2022, the outlet reported, citing an industry trade group called the National Shooting Sports Foundation. (RELATED: Mass Shootings Up 44% In The First Few Months Of 2023)
More guns were caught at U.S. airport security checkpoints in 2022 than ever. https://t.co/HZRaxDIPwp
— CBS News (@CBSNews) February 20, 2023
Repercussions for attempting to bring a gun through airport security varies according to local and state laws to include confiscation of the weapon and fines. The TSA in 2022 attempted to further deter passengers from bringing guns through security by raising the maximum fine to $14,950, as well as stripping qualifying offenders of their PreCheck status for five years, CBS reported. TSA PreCheck allows passengers to bypass certain types of security screening.
Retired TSA official Keith Jeffries said unauthorized items such as guns slow down the security checkpoint lines, in addition to the potential danger one gun can have in the wrong hands, CBS continued.
“It’s disruptive no matter what,” Jeffries told the outlet. “It’s a dangerous, prohibited item and, let’s face it, you should know where your gun is at, for crying out loud.”
The entire Atlanta airport was shut down for two-and-a-half hours in November 2021 after TSA located a firearm in a man’s carry-on bag at the security checkpoint.
“He advised the passenger not to touch the property, and as he opened the compartment containing the prohibited item, the passenger lunged into the bag and grabbed a firearm, at which point it discharged. The passenger then fled the area,” a statement from TSA read, according to CNBC News.
To curb the wide-spread disruptions, Atlanta airport officials have put up signage “all over” the airport, including holograms, announcements and TVs, to remind gun owners that firearms are not permitted through airport security, CBS reported.
“There’s quite a bit of information that is sort of flashing before your eyes to just try to remind you as a last ditch effort that if you do own a firearm, do you know where it’s at?” top Atlanta TSA official Robert Spinden told the outlet.
Though Atlanta had the most guns confiscated in 2022 with 448, the number was lower than in 2021, CBS reported.