Airport security finds record number of guns in 2021, with Phoenix near top of list

Oct 14, 2021, 1:05 PM | Updated: 1:42 pm
Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agents help travelers place their bags through the 3-D...
Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agents help travelers place their bags through the 3-D scanner at the Miami International Airport on May 21, 2019 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
(Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

PHOENIX – Federal officers have detected a record number of guns at airport security checkpoints this year, with Phoenix among the hot spots.

The Transportation Security Administration had already stopped 4,495 passengers from taking firearms onto planes as of Oct. 3, the agency announced Wednesday.

Guns have been discovered in 248 different airports, with Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport ranked fourth with 147. Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International was No. 1 with 391, followed by Dallas/Fort Worth International with 232 and George Bush Intercontinental in Houston with 168.

The 2021 total surpassed the 20-year record of 4,432 from 2019 even though fewer people are flying this year. Phoenix was fifth overall in 2019, with a then-record 132 guns.

For every million passengers screened at checkpoints across the nation in 2021, TSA officers have found 11 guns in carry-on bags. The rate in 2019 was five guns per million screenings. The rate jumped to 10 per million in 2020.

Patricia Mancha, TSA spokeswoman for Arizona, said people should always empty out their luggage before packing for trips.

“The most often-heard reason or excuse that we get from travelers is ‘I forgot it was in my carry-on.’ That’s unacceptable,” she told KTAR News 92.3 FM on Thursday.

Violators face fines of $1,500 to nearly $14,000, with repeat offenses and loaded weapons drawing higher penalties, as well as possible criminal referral.

“The number of firearms that our TSA officers are stopping at airport checkpoints is alarming,” TSA Administrator David Pekoske said in a press release.

“Firearms, particularly loaded firearms, introduce an unnecessary risk at checkpoints, have no place in the passenger cabin of an airplane, and represent a very costly mistake for the passengers who attempt to board a flight with them.”

Airline passengers who want to travel with firearms are permitted to do so in checked baggage. The guns must be unloaded and locked in a hard-sided case and declared during the check-in process.

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Taylor Tasler contributed to this report.

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Airport security finds record number of guns in 2021, with Phoenix near top of list