TSA alarmed by rate of guns at checkpoints

Boston Statehouse

MIAMI, FLORIDA – MAY 21: A Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agent’s patch is seen as she helps travelers place their bags through the 3-D scanner at the Miami International Airport on May 21, 2019 in Miami, Florida. TSA has begun using the new 3-D computed tomography (CT) scanner in a checkpoint lane to detect explosives and other prohibited items that may be inside carry-on bags. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

BOSTON (SHNS) – There are a lot fewer people flying, but the Transportation Security Administration says it’s noticing a “particularly alarming” development – its officers detected firearms in carry-on bags at a rate three times higher in July compared to the same month in 2019.

Officers detected 15.3 guns per million people last month compared to 5.1 guns per million people screened during July 2019, the TSA said on Monday, estimating it screened about 75 percent fewer passengers in July 2020, compared to July 2019.

“TSA is diligently working to ensure our employees and passengers are safe and secure while traveling during a pandemic, and yet we are noticing a significant increase in loaded firearms coming into checkpoints,” said TSA Administrator David Pekoske. “Travelers must understand that firearms are prohibited items at airports and in the passenger cabins of aircraft. As hard as we are working to mitigate other risks at this time, no one should be introducing new ones.”

Pekoske said 80 percent of the firearms coming into the checkpoints are loaded. The recommended federal civil penalty for an unloaded firearm starts at $2,050 and $4,100 for a loaded gun. The penalty can go up to the statutory maximum of more than $10,250 per violation.

“Passengers are permitted to travel with firearms in checked baggage if they are properly packaged and declared at check-in with the airline. Firearms must be unloaded, packed in a hard-sided case, locked, and packed separately from ammunition,” according to the TSA.

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