Rate of guns seized by TSA agents jumps in 2020, see how SLC Airport ranks

Local News
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Transportation Security Administration agents process passengers at the south security checkpoint in Denver International Airport Wednesday, June 10, 2020, in Denver, as travelers deal with the effects of the new coronavirus. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – While fewer people were taking to the skies in 2020, a higher percentage of them were carrying firearms.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) says screeners found 3,257 firearms on passengers or in their carry-on bags in 2020. That is about 10 for every million travelers.

Of those firearms, TSA says about 83% were loaded.

Despite decreased passenger loads, TSA says its officers discovered firearms in carry-on luggage at a rate twice what it was in 2019 and the highest rate since the agency’s inception.

According to TSA, 220 guns were seized from Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, the most out of any airport in the U.S. Checkpoints in Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport recovered the second-most at 176 firearms.

Only certain law enforcement officers are allowed to bring guns or ammunition into the cabin. Unloaded guns are allowed in checked bags that go to cargo hold under federal law.

While the nation saw a greater number of firearms found on passengers, Salt Lake City International Airport saw a decrease in firmearms discovered in 2020 versus 2019.

TSA reports a total of 71 firearms were found in travelers’ carry-on luggage in 2020 compared to 85 in 2019 and 73 in 2018. Each of the guns were found during routine screenings of carry-on property at airport security checkpoints.

In comparison to the rest of the nation, Salt Lake City International ranked 10th for the number of firearm discoveries by TSA officers.

“TSA continues to ask travelers to carefully pack their carry-on bags to ensure that firearms are not brought to the security checkpoint,” says TSA Acting Federal Security Director for Utah Grant Goodlett. “TSA officers continue to be focused during their screening duties to ensure that firearms – and other security threats – do not make it into the cabin of an aircraft.”

In Salt Lake City, TSA says it screened about 4.2 million departing travelers, about 48% of the total number screened in 2019. Statistics show that travelers flying out of SLC brought firearms in carry-on luggage at a rate of 16.8 firearms per million travelers screened, which is above the 2020 national average. By comparison, in 2019, the rate was 8 firearms per million passengers screened, according to TSA.

Those found to be traveling with a firearm can face criminal citations and civil penalties, which can be altered depending on whether the firearm was loaded and whether there was accessible ammunition.

Even if you have a concealed weapons permit, TSA says firearms are not permitted in carry-on luggage.

For more information on transporting firearms and ammunition, visit TSA’s website.

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