TSA in Review Feb 24 – April 22
By now you have surely seen the news that fewer people are traveling. Since March, we have been posting the daily figures online with a side-by-side comparison to last year’s statistics. Even still, every day, TSA officers continue to demonstrate an unwavering commitment to serve those who need to travel.
With fewer travelers, you are probably thinking that means fewer firearms caught at our security checkpoints. Well, yes and no. Let’s pull out the abacus and dive into the numbers.
From March 22 to April 22, TSA officers caught 58 guns at checkpoints nationwide. And from March 22 to April 22 of last year, TSA officers caught 346 guns. Okay, so yes, there have been fewer guns caught at our security checkpoints this year during the pandemic than last year when we were all out and about doing our thing. Makes perfect sense. Or does it?
Since our last blog post there have been four days (March 30, April 4, 14 and 16) where not a single firearm was brought to a security checkpoint.
Hard to believe, ya know?! For some perspective, last year TSA officers discovered an average of 11 firearms per day in travelers’ carry-on bags.
The last time that there were no firearms at checkpoints: Thursday, November 13, 2014. So when we saw four days with no guns, well, we were gobsmacked!
So we took a deeper dive into the numbers.
From March 22 to April 22, this year, TSA screened 4,675,650 individuals at checkpoints. And from March 22 to April 22 of last year, TSA officers screened 74,805,525 individuals. That’s a 93.8 percent drop in the number of people screened at checkpoints. Whoa!
Then we rolled up our sleeves, upgraded to our high school calculators and started crunching the numbers. And when we were all done, we discovered that TSA officers actually caught more guns this past month than the same month last year! New math? No, just some good old fashioned division!
Our high school calculators told us that during the same March 22 to April 22 period year-over-year that the rate of gun discoveries for the time period in 2019 was one per 216,200 people screened or .46 guns per 100,000 people screened.
But in 2020, the rate of gun discoveries was one per 80,614 people screened or 1.24 guns per 100,000 people screened. Bottom line is that the discovery rate for this current period is 2.68 times greater than for the same period in 2019.
And that was with four days of no guns showing up at checkpoints.
To catch everyone up from the last blog, between February 24 to April 22, TSA has found 317 firearms. Of the 317 firearms, 263 were loaded and 94 had a round chambered. You can see all the firearm discoveries from February 24 to April 22 here.
But enough about firearms because you are wise enough to pack your gun safely for travel or you’re leaving it at home. So when you do come to the checkpoint for your flight, here’s what’s changed:
- We recommend that you remove items from your pockets and put them directly into your carry-on bag instead of into the bin– your wallet, keys or phone – toss them right in your carry-on bag before sending through the X-ray.
- Yes, you can wear a mask, including colorful homemade ones, during the screening process. In some states you might be required to keep that mask on whenever you leave the house. We may ask you to adjust the mask so can visually confirm your identity when you show your ID.
- Disinfecting wipes are also totally allowed. We don’t have a limit on the amount you can bring,
- Liquid hand sanitizer is allowed in containers up to 12 ounces per passenger in carry-on bags until further notice. Passengers can expect that containers larger than the standard allowance of 3.4 ounces of liquids permitted through a checkpoint will need to be screened separately, which will add some time to their checkpoint screening experience.
Read our blog on what TSA is doing in response to COVID-19. And visit TSA’s COVID-19 web page for even more up-to-date information on what TSA is doing during this critical time.
Face mask? Check. Hand sanitizer? Check. Boarding pass? Check. 16-cylinder Tannerite multi-shot special effect pyrotechnic with an electrical match? Uh…check?! NOOO-ooo!!
Who isn’t putting a small portion of their stimulus checks towards that big celebration when we are all back together? We’re going to need something bigger than this to celebrate all of our health care workers and essential employees! May we suggest, however, that you leave the pyrotechnics to the professionals, and maybe just grab a few sparklers when you get to your destination.
This item was discovered in a checked bag of a Denver International Airport passenger on February 25 and was turned over to the Public Safety Bomb Squad for safe disposal. And… surprise! The passenger missed their flight.
Don’t put razor blades in your shoes. “Man, I really wish I had my trusty shoe razor!” – said no one.
Putting razor blades in your shoes can cause you issues at the security checkpoint, and we we’re not talking about the cuts. Attempting to conceal prohibited items from our officers is a good way to get a civil penalty and bring the attention of law enforcement.
This incident happened on March 25 at Cyril E. King Airport on St. Thomas in the US Virgin Islands. The passenger stated that they were unaware of the blade.
What’s worse than having one empty grenade in your checked bag? How about having two empty grenades in your checked bag that caused a 24-minute evacuation of the baggage room at South Carolina’s Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport on February 24.
Seriously folks, if they look real to you, they look real to us.
Need to travel with some medication? Have a question about a medical device or implant? See our Special Procedures page for answers.
Be prepared! For a list of prohibited items, check out our What Can I Bring? tool. Not only does it tell you what you can bring it gives you tips on where to pack it!
Check out our Security Screening page for information about our security screening process.
If you still need help you can contact us or reach out on or . Our AskTSA team will be happy to answer even the most outlandish travel-related questions.
We found 4,432 firearms in 2019. Visit our 2019 Year in Review for more information.
Watch a video highlighting TSA’s Top 10 Finds of 2019.
Want to get to know us better? You can follow us @TSA on , Instagram, and on .
Thanks for reading and safe & healthy travels!
TSA Firearms Finds Reach Record Levels Despite Travel Slowdown
Airports around the United States experienced their lowest levels of passenger traffic in years in 2020. Despite this, or maybe because of this, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) detected twice as many firearms per million passengers screened at airport security checkpoints nationwide in 2020 compared to 2019.
The TSA seized record levels of guns at airport security checkpoints last year. Photo: Dallas Fort Worth Airport
TSA gun seizure rate doubles in 2020
Last year, the TSA detected 3,257 guns on passengers or in their carry-on bags at checkpoints in 2020. This equates to around 10 guns found per million passengers. It compares to about five guns per million passengers screened in 2019. Of the guns detected at security points last year, 83% were loaded.
According to the TSA, passengers can fly with guns in their checked baggage if they are properly packed and declared at check-in. Airlines and individual states and localities also have their own rules and regulations concerning guns on planes and in their airports.
“Firearms are strictly prohibited onboard planes in the passenger cabin,” says the TSA’s Darby LaJoye in a press statement issued on Tuesday. Mr LaJoye said taking guns through TSA screening points could pose a threat to passenger safety.
“I commend our officers for their commitment to TSA’s security mission by identifying and stopping these weapons at the TSA checkpoints,” he said.
According to the TSA, guns were found at security checkpoints at 234 airports around the United States last year. The busiest airports topped the list. The largest number of guns were seized at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International. The minor placegetters were Dallas Fort Worth Airport and Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport.
Citing weak laws and a casual approach to the public carrying of firearms, a spokesperson for the Center for American Progress told Simple Flying;
“We are ly to continue to see guns showing up in places where they do not belong, including secure areas of airports.
As passenger numbers increase, the pressure on TSA officers increases, and fewer guns may be found. Photo: Getty Images
Why are more guns getting found at TSA checkpoints?
Is this a case of more guns in airports or the TSA simply increasing their seizure rate from stable numbers? With fewer people passing through TSA security points in 2020, is it easier for the TSA officers to do their job?
An expert in risk-based security, Professor Sheldon H. Jacobson of the University of Illinois told Simple Flying that with fewer travelers on the move, TSA officers have fewer distractions and could better focus on the job of detecting threats.
But Professor Sheldon was also critical of the TSA reporting gun seizures on a per capita basis. In doing so, he said the “TSA obfuscates the fact that the risk profiles of travelers prior to COVID-19 is different from the current pool of travelers post-COVID-19.”
In normal years, a substantial portion of airline passengers in the United States are business travelers. They are typically frequent travelers who’ve been prescreened via the TSA PreCheck process, know the drill, and are unly to present a security risk.
Increased take-up of screening processes PreCheck allows the TSA to focus on unscreened passengers. Photo: Getty Images
In 2020, the traveler demographic changed in favor of less frequent leisure orientated passengers. It is these less regular travelers who haven’t been pre-screened that are more ly to be totting guns at TSA security points and pose a security risk.
But with lower passenger numbers, and the TSA can really focus on unscreened passengers. Associate Professor Sheldon last year said increased gun seizures was a positive thing. It showed the system was working.
Stay informed: Sign up for our daily aviation news digest.
Fines and criminal prosecution on the table
Meanwhile, the TSA says fines for taking loaded firearms (or unloaded firearms with accessible ammunition) to security checkpoints, airside airport zones, or onto aircraft range from US$4,100 to $10,250. They will also refer more egregious offenses to criminal authorities for potential criminal prosecution.
Do these gun seizure numbers surprise you? Are authorities tough enough on travelers who roll up to TSA checkpoints with guns in their carry on luggage? Post a comment and let us know.