TSA has stopped record number of guns at airport security checkpoints in 2022

A TSA officer holds out a plastic bowl for a passenger to put her phone into at an X-ray machine
TSA officers work at a screening checkpoint at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in May 2020.
(Elaine Thompson / Associated Press)

Authorities have stopped more than 6,000 firearms from going through airport security checkpoints so far this year, the most in the history of the Transportation Security Administration, officials said.

Of the 6,301 guns discovered by officers at checkpoints, more than 88% were loaded.

“TSA anticipates it will prevent about 6,600 firearms in carry-on bags from entering the secure area of airports by the end of 2022, a nearly 10% increase over 2021’s record level,” officials said Friday.

Last year, officers discovered 5,972 guns at checkpoints nationwide, marking what was then an all-time high since the TSA was created 21 years ago and began tracking firearm discoveries.


“Firearm possession laws vary by state and local government, but firearms are never allowed in carry-on bags at any TSA security checkpoint, even if a passenger has a concealed weapon permit,” officials said.

The TSA said it has increased the maximum civil penalty for such violations to $14,950.

Those caught with a gun at a checkpoint will also have PreCheck eligibility revoked for at least five years.

Even with air travel yet to return to pre-pandemic levels, the number of guns discovered at TSA checkpoints set a 20-year record in 2020. Officials point to rising gun sales.

Dec. 30, 2021

“Depending on state or local law in the airport’s location, passengers who bring firearms to a checkpoint may be arrested by law enforcement,” the TSA said.

At Los Angeles International Airport, officers have intercepted slightly fewer firearms so far this year than they did last year.

As of Thursday, there were 75 guns discovered at the airport’s security checkpoints, compared with 89 last year overall, according to data provided by the TSA.

Officers at LAX found 43 guns in 2020, 44 in 2019, 57 in 2018 and 56 in 2017, according to the TSA.


“LAX is home to the largest and most sophisticated airport police force in the country, with substantial capabilities to detect and deter threats of all types,” said Martin Elam, deputy executive director for public safety and security at Los Angeles World Airports.

Airport police work “hand-in-hand” with the TSA to respond to reports of firearms that aren’t properly secured and declared for travel, Elam said.

Passengers are responsible for understanding the rules of traveling with a firearm and the consequences of not following those rules, he said.

“Firearms are prohibited in carry-on bags at the checkpoint and onboard aircraft,” TSA Administrator David Pekoske said in a statement. “When a passenger brings a firearm to the checkpoint, this consumes significant security resources and poses a potential threat to transportation security, in addition to being very costly for the passenger.”

Travelers who want to fly with firearms must leave them in checked luggage, follow specific guidelines for packing guns and ammunition, and declare them to their airline at check-in.