The number of people who attempted to bring guns onto United States airplanes rose significantly this year, according to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), despite having never been allowed in carry-on bags regardless of concealed weapons permits.
This protection measure resulted in TSA seizing 6,301 firearms as of Dec. 16, 2022 – more than 88 percent of which were headed for planes already loaded. The previous record was set last year at 5,972 firearms. At this rate, the agency predicted it would halt about 6,600 firearms in carry-on bags from entering secure areas of airports by year’s end. The situation has prompted TSA to increase the maximum civil penalty for firearms violations to $14,950.
Airports and planes do not strictly operate under the same guidelines as state and local authorities. Although firearm possession laws vary greatly from area to area, nowhere are guns allowed in carry-on bags through TSA security checkpoints. Attempts to violate this can result in varying penalties, though each case is unique, and circumstances guide. That said, one consistent punishment is that TSA will revoke PreCheck eligibility for at least five years for anyone caught attempting this and may go a step further with enhanced screening to ensure those passengers offer no other threat.
In some areas, those breaking this law may also be arrested, and repeat offenses incur higher penalties. Federal law prohibits items seized in this way at security checkpoints from being returned to their owners, either.
“I applaud the work of our Transportation Security Officers who do an excellent job of preventing firearms from getting into the secure area of airports and onboard aircraft,” TSA Administrator David Pekoske said. “Firearms are prohibited in carry-on bags at the checkpoint and onboard aircraft. 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.”
A simple solution for most travelers insistent about their firearms is to bring them through checked baggage. Even there, they must follow specific packing guidance and declare them to their airline at check-in. Individual airlines reserve the right to provide additional requirements for those traveling with firearms and ammunition.
Violations of this nature have been steadily rising since at least 2010, according to TSA data, when 1,123 firearms were caught. The only exception was in 2020, likely due to the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on travel in general.