TSA found more than 1,500 firearms on airline passengers in first 3 months of 2024

Authorities look at confiscated items in an airport.
Los Angeles World Airports Police Chief Cecil Rhambo, left, and TSA supervisor Jorge Pineda display items confiscated during TSA screenings during a January news conference at LAX.
(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

More than 1,500 firearms were found on travelers screened at airport security checkpoints across the country in the first three months of the year, according to federal officials.

Roughly 93% of the guns found by security officials were loaded, the Transportation Security Administration announced in a news release Thursday.

The TSA screened more than 206 million travelers in the first quarter of 2024, which stretches from January 1 to March 31.


TSA officers found 1,503 firearms, which amounts to about 16.5 guns found each day across the nation’s airports, which is slightly down for the same time period last year when officers found 16.8 firearms per day or 7.9 firearms per one million passengers, according to the news release.

A handgun sits by a ruler.
This handgun was discovered in the carry-on bag of a passenger at Baltimore Washington International Airport.

“While it is certainly promising that the rate of passengers bringing firearms to the checkpoint has decreased, one firearm at the checkpoint is too many,” TSA Administrator David Pekoske said in the news release.

“The demand for air travel is as strong as ever and security is always our number one priority. Every time we discover a firearm at the checkpoint, the security screening process is slowed down for all.”

TSA is unveiling a self-service security screening system at the Harry Reid International Airport in Las Vegas.

March 8, 2024

People can travel with firearms, but they need to properly pack and check their baggage, Pekoske said. The baggage with the firearms must also be declared to the airline at the ticket counter and should be packed unloaded in a hard-sided case.

“We always recommend passengers start with a clean bag when they pack to ensure no firearms, weapons or other prohibited items are present,” Pekoske said.

A handgun is packed in a case.
A TSA spokesperson demonstrates how to pack a gun in a case accepted by the agency for checked luggage.
(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

The TSA does not confiscate guns at its checkpoints, but instead contacts local law enforcement to safely unload and take possession of the firearm, according to the TSA. This could lead police to arrest or cite the passenger, and the TSA could impose a fine up to $15,000. Those passengers could also lose access for up to five years to the TSA’s expedited screening process.

There were about 15 million more travelers screened this year than last year, but the TSA did not provide a breakdown for individual airports.

Last year, TSA officers found 145 guns in travelers’ carry-on luggage across five Southern California airports. That includes 81 guns found on passengers at LAX; 20 at Ontario International Airport; 25 at John Wayne Airport in Orange County; nine at Hollywood Burbank Airport and 10 at Long Beach Airport, according to the TSA. Data for 2023 continued a steady increase for previous years for the five airports, where 94 firearms were discovered in 2018.

Security officers found 33 firearms in the first quarter of this year across the five airports, according to officials, and 37 in the previous year, with LAX leading the pack with 16 in 2024 and 18 in 2023.