TSA

Fewer passengers, but more firearms at airports

This is alarming:

While there are still fewer passengers flying on commercial planes due to the pandemic, there is an uptick in the number of firearms people are bringing with them to U.S. airports.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) announced this week that so far this year its officers have found a record number of firearms at airport security checkpoints.

As of October 3rd, with three months yets to go in 2021, TSA officers had stopped 4,495 passengers with firearms. That already surpasses the previous year-long record of 4,432 firearms caught throughout all of 2019.

In 2019, TSA found 5 firearms per million passengers. So far this year, TSA discovered 11 firearms in carry-on bags at airport checkpoints per million passengers.

Here are Top 10 airports for firearms discoveries so far this year. Note that the most firearms have been found at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL), and that three Texas airports (DFW, IAH, and DAL) are on this list.

ATL: 391

DFW: 232

IAH: 168

PHX: 147

BNA (Memphis): 115

DEN: 107

FLL: 107

MSY: 90

SLC: 90

DAL: 88

Alarming, right?

Alarming & heartwarming TSA Tweets

We’re still missing the corny communications TSA’s Blogger Bob Burns once shared with the public, but Lisa Farbstein and the team on duty now are doing a great job of keeping the public informed with light but serious messages about what can and cannot go through airport security checkpoints.

The tweets about the guns and other weapons people try to take through airport security checkpoints always alarm us, but this Tweet and the story of a TSA officer finding and returning a lost diamond is very heartwarming.

TSA offering self-defense training to flight crews.

As airline passenger volume ticks up, many passengers are packing something the Transportation Security Administration and airlines would rather they’d leave home: a combative attitude.

“Passengers do not arrive at an airport or board a plane with the intent of becoming unruly or violent; however, what is an exciting return to travel for some may be a more difficult experience for others, which can lead to unexpected, and unacceptable, behaviors,” said Darby LaJoye, TSA Senior Official Performing the Duties of the Administrator.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is reporting an alarming spike in incidents of unruly passengers.

Here is part of a table from the FAA showing all the cases investigated that cited violations of one or more FAA regulations or federal laws.

There are 3,082 incidents so far in 2021, compared to fewer than 200 cases in any of the past five years.

You’ve no doubt seen and read about all the crazy incidents on planes with passengers refusing to comply with federal regulations to wear face masks. But not as well-publicized are the incidents that have been taking place in airports.

TSA shared this in a statement:

Two separate incidents this month have triggered referrals to law enforcement for passengers in Louisville, KY and Denver, CO. In Louisville, a passenger allegedly assaulted two TSOs while attempting to breach the exit lane and is facing state criminal charges for criminal trespass, fleeing and evading police, misdemeanor assault, and resisting arrest. The Denver incident involved a passenger allegedly biting two TSOs and remains under investigation. Both passengers also face a potential civil penalty of up to $13,910 for each violation of TSA security requirements.” 

Here’s something that may help:

In early July the TSA is restarting its Crew Member Self-Defense (CMSD) training. Under the voluntary program, which was paused due to COVID-19 restrictions, Federal Air Marshals train flight crew members in defensive measure techniques for responding against an attacker in a commercial passenger or cargo aircraft.

During the training, flight crew members learn to identify and deter potential threats, and if needed, apply the self-defense techniques against attackers.  The four-hour training is offered to flight crew members free of charge and is held at 24 locations around the United States.

“Through this training program, TSA’s Federal Air Marshals are able to impart their specialized expertise in defending against and de-escalating an attack while in an aircraft environment,” said LaJoye, “

Sara Nelson, the president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, would like the course to be compulsory.

Assaulting or threatening a member of the flight crew is a federal crime and perpetrators may face civil penalties, criminal fines, or imprisonment. In May 2021 alone, the FAA proposed civil penalties ranging from $9,000 to $15,000 against five airline passengers for allegedly interfering with and, in two cases, assaulting flight attendants who instructed them to obey cabin crew instructions and various federal regulations. 

TSA’s Top 10 Finds of 2020

It has become a tradition for the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to release an annual “Top 10” list of the ‘best’ things the agency’s officers find travelers’ checked and carry-on bags.

The list for 2020 has just been issued in video form (below).

What made the TSA list?

#10 was a sling shot.

#9: Knives hidden in a hollowed out book.

#8 was a stash of 107 Roman candles found New York’s LaGuardia Airport in early November 2020.

#7: A smoke grenade found at Dulles International Airport

#6 A shark in a jar, found at Syracuse Hancock International Airport (SYR) in November.

#5 Again at LaGuardia in November, 2020. TSA officers spotted what looked like a pipe bomb in a carry-on bag. “When one of the end caps was removed, a partially smoked cigar was found inside,” TSA reports, “It turned out that the item was a homemade humidor for a traveler’s cigars.”

#4 Marijuana concealed inside checked bags, discovered at Boston Logan International Airport (BOS).

#3 In July, while scanning checked baggage at Newark-Liberty International Airport, TSA officers found an assault rifle, a high-capacity magazine, four boxes of hollow-point bullets, three magazines, one of which was fully loaded, and two additional boxes of rifle ammunition “artfully concealed” (as TSA says) in the lining of a checked bag.

#2 In September at John F. Kennedy International Airport TSA officers spotted two large electronic items wired to what appeared to be a tampered power source. It looked like an improvised explosive device but was later identified as a solar panel wired to the batteries to power the electronic item.

#1 Here TSA’s list of great ‘catches’ veers into the “aw, that’s romantic.”

These two lovebirds are TSA canine handlers at Newark Liberty International Airport. They got married in June and, of course, Obelix and Proto were on hand to help celebrate.

Here’s the full TSA video of the Top 10 Catches of 2020.

For your entertainment, we’ve include a few Top 10 lists from past years too.

And here’s why we still really miss TSA’s Bob Burns.

TSA found 3,257 firearms in carry-on bags in 2020

Travel was way down in 2020. But that didn’t stop those who were getting on airplanes from having firearms in their carry-on bags.

In a report released today, TSA says its officers found 3,257 firearms on passengers or in their carry-on bags at checkpoints. Of those firearms caught, about 83 percent were loaded.

In 2019, TSA officers stopped a record 4,432 firearms, of which 87 percent were loaded.

Firearems were found at 234 airports.

Here are Top 10 Airports where TSA found firearms at the checkpoints

AIRPORT (CODE)TOTAL
1Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL)220
2Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW)176
3Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH)126
4Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX)124
5Denver International Airport (DEN)104
6Nashville International Airport (BNA)94
7Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL)87
8Orlando International Airport (MCO)79
9Las Vegas McCarran International Airport (LAS)72
10Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC)71

While firearms aren’t allowed in carry-on bags (for obvious reasons…) airline passengers may fly with firearms if they are properly packed as checked baggage. There are state and local firearms laws that passengers must be sure to comply with.

What happens if you’re found with a firearm in your carry-on?

In some cities, local police are called over and may file criminal charges.

TSA says it can assess civil penalties that vary by the number of previous offenses and whether the firearm was loaded at the time. Fines can exceed more than $10,000. range.