Security officers at U.S. airports are on pace to confiscate nearly 4,000 firearms from travelers in 2017, surpassing a record set last year by nearly 15%.
The Transportation Security Administration on its blog publishes a weekly tally of weapons found. As of Christmas Eve, 3,888 firearms had been discovered on passengers at U.S. airport checkpoints for the year.
The final week of the year, when travel is busiest, is likely to push that total close to 4,000, according to TSA officials.
At the end of 2016, the TSA reported it has taken 3,391 firearms from passengers, a 28% increase from the previous year.
Although the latest numbers show that the rate of increase in firearm seizures is slowing, other aspects remain about the same.
For instance, the share of guns found loaded over the past three years has held steady at 83%.
The three airports that have led the nation in most guns uncovered have been Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport and George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston.
The size of the airport doesn’t seem to be a factor in the number of guns uncovered. Los Angeles International Airport, for example, is the nation’s second-busiest but hasn’t been in the top five for firearms over the past few years, according to the TSA data.
Both Texas and Georgia allow people to openly carry handguns with a permit. California doesn’t.
Most of the guns have been found in carry-on bags but some have been concealed in stuffed animals, potted plants and mixed in with tools, according to the TSA.
Federal law prohibits airline passengers from carrying firearms or other weapons into the cabin of a plane. If a TSA agent uncovers such a weapon, the traveler can face a civil fine ranging from $330 to $13,000 and be turned over to local police for prosecution under local guns laws, which vary by state.
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