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.
If you’re flying to any airport near Washington, D.C. in the days leading up to the inauguration, you’ll have to leave your firearms at home.
Based on the events over the past few weeks in the nation’s capital, Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Frontier, Southwest, Spirit, and United Airlines are imposing a temporary ban on checking firearms.
Additional security measures are being put in place as well.
In most cases, credentialed law enforcement personnel and active-duty military members traveling on orders are exempt from the policies.
“To ensure the safety of our customers and employees, customers flying into the Washington, D.C. area (DCA, BWI, IAD and RIC) from January 16 – 23 will not be permitted to transport firearms in their checked bags. As a reminder, firearms are never permitted in carry-ons,“
*Increased mask enforcement on the ground and in the air.
* A limit on the number of tickets to be sold to and from the Washington, D.C. area;
*And and a requirement that all passengers traveling to and from the DC metro area stay seated one hour after take-off and one hour before landing .
“We will have a dedicated command center to monitor every phase of the journey – check-in, boarding, taxi, climb, cruise, descent, and arrival – to ensure compliance and allow us to quickly respond to and resolve any incidents,” the airline said in its statement.
Other airlines are doing much the same. Some are banning the sales of alcohol on flights as well.
The safety of our customers and team members is our top priority. As an additional precautionary measure in advance of the Presidential Inauguration, firearms may not be transported in checked bags on flights into Washington, D.C.-area airports (DCA, IAD and BWI) from January 16 – 23, 2021. Credentialed law enforcement officials and active duty military members traveling on Department of Defense orders will be exempt.
Firearms are never allowed to be brought onboard our planes as a carry-on item.
month, TSA also collects and catalogs 90,000 to 100,000 other items that are
perfectly legal to travel with, but which are inadvertently left behind at
airport checkpoints by harried and distracted travelers.
items range from scarves and sunglasses to laptops, smartphones and some odd
“How did they forget THAT?” items such as bowling balls, violins, gold teeth
and urns and boxes filled with human cremains.
On a post-holiday tour of TSA’s Lost & Found room at Reagan National Airport, we spotted plenty of those items, as well as multiple bags filled with left behind IDs.
We also saw shelves lined with ballcaps, CPAP breathing machines, winter coats, car key fobs that will cost $200 or more to replace, car seats, canes and fully packed carry-on bags.
easy to see how hats and scarves get left behind in the bins, but what about
laptops, entire carry-on bags and other essential items?
the “people are in a rush,” factor, TSA spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein has some
it comes to laptops, many brands are grey and the same color as the checkpoint
bins, so it can be easy to overlook your laptop,” says Feinstein. “Also, if a
bin has an advertisement in the bottom, travelers’ eyes may be drawn to the ad
and cause them to miss the driver’s license and keys still in the bin.”
The number of bins people use may also contribute to the pile-up in the Lost & Found. If you’ve scattered your stuff across multiple bins (coats here, electronics there, a flat laptop and an ID in another bin), you may overlook items in the last bin as you rush to take your stuff out and stack up the used bins.
The pile of canes?
“It’s not that we have so many miraculous recoveries at TSA checkpoints,” says Farbstein, “I think attendants and family members helping wheelchair users who also have canes often forget to pick up the canes once they’re through the checkpoint.”
your stuff out of Lost & Found
TSA keeps items left behind at security checkpoints for a minimum of 30 days and posts phone numbers on its website where travelers can contact the Lost & Found department at each airport.
in mind that airports and airlines will have their own lost and found
procedures for things left in the terminals and on airplanes.)
To improve your chances of getting your stuff back – or not
losing it in the first place – Farbstein offers these tips:
Tape a business card or some other form of ID to
your laptop or smartphone. “So many models are alike, so this can make all the
difference in getting yours back,” said Farbstein.
Before you get to the checkpoint, or while
you’re standing online, take time to consolidate all your miscellaneous items
(i.e. scarves, hats, gloves) and take everything out of your pockets (keys,
phones, wallets, etc.). Instead of putting small items in a bin, put them in
your carry-on in an extra plastic bag you’ve packed just for that purpose. If
you don’t put loose items in the bin to begin with, you eliminate the chance of
leaving anything in the bin on the other side.
Pay attention to everything you put in the bins,
including things that may have a high emotional value. “A laptop may cost thousands of dollars, but I can assure
you that an old beat-up stuffed animal that a child has left behind is valuable
to the parent who is now dealing with a crying child,” says Farbstein.
Help is on the way
Looking forward, as part of a $96.8 million contract
awarded last year to Smiths Detection, in 2020 most large and major airports in
the United States will be getting computed technology 3D X-ray scanners at the
checkpoints. This new machinery will allow travelers to keep their electronics
in their carry-on bags and reduce the chance of so many laptops and other
gadgets getting left behind.
(My story: “How to avoid leaving stuff behind at the TSA checkpoint” first appeared on CNBC in a slightly different version)
TSA’s Year in Review came out today with the (still somewhat unofficial) final stats on the number of guns TSA officers found in carry-on bags at airport checkpoints last year.
The total for 2018 is a record-setting 4,239 firearms found in carry-on bags at 249 of the more than 400 TSA-controlled airport checkpoints around the country.
That’s up more than 7 percent from the 3,957 firearms TSA officers found in carry-on bags in 2017.
And that averages out to 81.6 firearms a week and 11.6 firearms a day.
The break-down gets more alarming when we look at the stats on the number of guns found to be loaded.
Of the 4,239 firearms found last year, more than 86% (3,656) were loaded (another record) and almost 34% (1,432) of the firearms found had a round chambered.
Why do so many passengers show up at airports with guns?
“I think the biggest reason is that people go buy these things and then completely forget they have them, which is dangerous in its own right,” said aviation security expert Jeff Price, the owner of Leading Edge Strategies, “I imagine when they get the gun, at first they are always aware of it because they feel safer. Then, after a period of time, it works its way to the bottom of the bag and next thing that happens is its discovered at a screening checkpoint.”
Price also suspects that because more people are carrying guns these days and carry those guns in purses and laptops, they are aware they have the guns, “But in the hustle and confusion of preparing for a trip, they forget to take the gun out. “
TSA’s Year in Review also lists the top 10 airports for firearm discoveries in 2018.
Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) the Top 10 list with 298 firearms found. (253 loaded.) That’s an increase of 53 compared to 2017.
ATL also set the record for the airport with the most firearms discovered in one month: In August 2018, 32 firearms were found at ATL checkpoints.
Here’s the rest of TSA’s Top 10 list of airports for firearms discoveries in 2018:
Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW): 219 (193 loaded)
Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX): 129 (120 loaded)
Denver International Airport (DEN): 126 (95 loaded)
International Airport (MCO): 123 (112 loaded)
Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH): 117 (115 loaded). Some good news here: this
is a decrease of 25 compared to 2017.
Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL): 96 (80 loaded)
International Airport (AUS): 93 (76 loaded)
Love Field Airport (DAL): 89 (83 loaded)
International Airport (BNA): 86 (80 loaded)
In a year when TSA also screened a record number of travelers (813.8 million; a 5.5 percent increase over 2017), the agency’s officers also found a wide variety of prohibited items and ‘artfully concealed’ objects other than firearms in carry-on bags, including inert grenades, a bottle of lighter fluid, fireworks and knife combs.
TSA’s week in review also notes the loss in 2018 of Curtis “Blogger Bob” Burns, the charmingly corny TSA employee who chronicled the agency’s odd finds on the TSA blog, on Twitter and on Instagram. Burns is featured in quirky videos highlighting TSA Top 10 Most Unusual Finds in 2016 and in 2017.
TSA’s Year in Review promises that a video highlighting 2018’s most unusual finds will be released soon.