The Transportation Security Administration will likely break the record for the number of guns intercepted at airport security checkpoints, underscoring a persistent challenge for security officials amid brisk gun sales in the U.S., the New York Times reports. TSA officers have already discovered more than 4,600 guns at airport checkpoints this year and about 87 percent of them were loaded. Last year, TSA found nearly 6,000 guns at airport checkpoints, which is a record. The trend of discovering guns at checkpoints has been rising for more than a decade. The only time it decreased was during the pandemic. However, this year guns have made a return to nearing prepandemic levels. This is likely because gun sales have surged in recent years, leaving some travelers unfamiliar with the rules of carrying firearms for flights. “Entering a checkpoint with a firearm, particularly a loaded one, is an expensive mistake,” said Carter Langston, a TSA spokesman. Guns cannot be brought onto planes in carry-on baggage, however, they are allowed to be transported if they are unloaded and locked in a hard-sided case.
Guns were discovered at 268 airports last year, and the 10 airports with the largest number of them were all in the South or the West. When a gun is found at a checkpoint, TSA agents are instructed to call law enforcement. There is no federal criminal penalty for passengers caught with a gun at a checkpoint, but they can face a fine of up to about $14,000 and the loss of PreCheck membership for up to five years. Potential criminal charges, if any, vary by state. In Texas, law enforcement officials tell travelers to get out of line and lock their guns in their cars. In New York, however, the discovery of a gun at a checkpoint will most likely end with the passenger in handcuffs. The severity of any criminal charges can also differ based on whether the person has a permit to carry a concealed weapon. In Florida, people can be charged with a second-degree misdemeanor if they are stopped at an airport checkpoint even with concealed carry. However, without concealed carry, a passenger could face a felony.