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TSA seized 4,239 guns at airports nationwide in 2018 — and most of them were loaded


A record number of firearms were discovered at U.S. airport checkpoints last year, with more than 4,200 guns found at 249 airports nationwide. (

Airport security screeners uncovered more than 4,200 firearms in travelers’ carry-on bags last year, an average of nearly 12 guns a day.

The total number of firearms seized at airports nationwide marked a 7% increase from 2017, according to the Transportation Security Administration’s Year in Review. The bulk of those guns, more than 86%, were loaded at the time.

TSA screeners found a total of 4,239 guns at 249 different airports across the country, though roughly a third of the incidents occurred at the same 10 facitilies. Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport saw the most firearms seized for the second year in a row, with 298 guns found in carry-on bags there. Of those, 253 were loaded.

Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport and Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport rounded out the top three, with 219 and 129 firearms seized at each location, respectively.

Security agents also seized a selection of of “other prohibited items.” In November, three smoke grenades were found at Nashville International Airport and a month later, authorities recovered five replica mortar shells inside a checked bag at Orlando International Airport.

“We had to stop baggage screening operations until an explosive specialist could respond and declare the items were safe,” according to the report.

“Anything resembling an explosive item is prohibited in carry-on and checked bags.”

TSA agents routinely encourage all travelers to check their carry-on bags before going through security as many claim they’ve only brought along a banned item by mistake. The agency is also working with airports to improve signage so to limit similar incidents going forward.

Federal law does allow for passengers to transport unloaded guns in a locked “hard-side container,” but only in checked baggage. Travelers are also required to declare all firearms “each time you present it for transport as checked baggage.”

Properly packed ammunition is also allowed, though gun powder is banned altogether. Offenders risk arrest as well as a fine of up to $13,000, according to the TSA website.

The total number of firearms discovered at airport checkpoints has consistently climbed over the course of the last decade, the amount more than quadrupling since 2008, according to the report.

In 2017, nearly 4,000 guns were seized across 239, which was a 16% increase from the year prior.