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Illustration by Security Management

Americans Keep Forgetting Firearms in Luggage

Please check your luggage for firearms before going to the airport.

The U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) announced on 13 December that security personnel confiscated more than 5,700 firearms at airport security checkpoints in 2021—breaking records for the most firearms detected in a single year, according to Reuters.

The prior yearly record was 4,400 in 2019.

According to TSA Administrator David Pekoske, the increase reflects an increase in firearms being carried by Americans overall.

While you can fly with an unloaded firearm, it must be stored in checked baggage. Trying to bring a firearm onto an airplane in carry-on luggage—whether intentionally or accidentally—can be costly, because the TSA typically takes civil penalty action against the passenger that could cost between $3,000 and $10,000 in fines. The agency also refers the issue to law enforcement if it violates local or state laws, Reuters reported. Repeat offenders could face fines as high as $13,910.

The majority of guns found—85 percent—were loaded with ammunition, CBS News reported. Airports in Atlanta, Dallas-Fort Worth, and Houston were ranked highest in confiscated firearms.

TSA strives to keep air travelers well informed about what they can and cannot bring on airplanes through a variety of communication methods, from tailored social media posts to streamlined question-and-answer sessions. But despite their best efforts, passengers regularly forget about loaded firearms in their luggage.

One passenger at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in November 2021 lunged into his bag while it was being searched and grabbed a firearm, which discharged. The incident caused mass chaos at the airport, and three people were injured.

Tensions are high at airports overall these days, as passengers continue to clash with flight attendants and other officials over COVID-19 regulations and restrictions. According to figures released in early November, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has seen a six-fold increase over the span of two years in investigations of unruly passengers. Between 1 January 2021 and 24 October 2021, the FAA instigated 950 investigations—compared to 146 in 2019.