2015 yields bumper crop of guns at Hartsfield-Jackson


2015 yields bumper crop of guns at Hartsfield-Jackson

Guns found at Atlanta airport security checkpoints

2015 - 144

2014 - 109

2013 - 111

2012 - 100

Source: TSA

Top 10 airports for gun catches in 2015

1. Dallas/Fort Worth: 153

2. Hartsfield-Jackson: 144

3. Houston George Bush Intercontinental: 100

4. Denver International: 90

5. Phoenix Sky Harbor: 73

6. Nashville: 59

7. Seattle-Tacoma: 59

8. Dallas Love Field: 57

9. Austin-Bergstrom: 54

10. Houston Hobby: 52

Source: TSA

How to properly pack a gun

  • Pack the gun unloaded, in a locked, hard-sided case
  • The weapon must be in a checked bag, not a carry-on
  • You must declare the firearm to the airline and fill out a firearms declaration card
  • Ammunition must be packed separately in the case, in boxes designed to securely carry it

A record 144 guns were caught at security checkpoints at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in 2015, putting Atlanta in the No. 2 spot nationwide.

The number shot up 32 percent from the previous year, when 109 guns were found.

Mark Howell, a Transportation Security Administration spokesman, attributed the jump to more passengers, but also to more of them toting guns. Hartsfield-Jackson passenger volume rose 5.5 percent last year.

“More people traveling and more people carrying equals more guns at the airport and at the checkpoint,” Howell said.

2015 was the first full year for Georgia’s new gun law, which increased gun rights and reinforced the right to carry in all airport terminals in the state. But it’s still illegal to carry guns beyond security checkpoints.

Officials say many travelers may keep guns in purses or bags and may forget to remove them before they head to the airport for a flight. The TSA urges passengers to check for prohibited items before going to the airport. Signs above the security checkpoint remind them.

Dallas/Fort Worth International took the title for the most guns caught for the year, the TSA said, with 153. Of the top 10 airports for confiscated guns, five are in Texas — both commercial airports in metro Dallas and in Houston, as well as the airport in Austin.

Across the country, a total of 2,653 guns were discovered in carry-on bags, an average of seven per day. The number has risen every year since 2007.

About 83 percent of the firearms found are loaded, according to TSA.

TSA chief Peter Neffenger said TSA officers are “becoming more adept at intercepting these prohibited items.” The agency has come under fire for failing to detect mock explosives and weapons during tests and has retrained screeners.

Though Hartsfield-Jackson is the world’s busiest airport, it does not have the most passengers going through checkpoints because total counts include connecting passengers who never go through security in Atlanta.

Airports in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and San Francisco have more passengers going through checkpoints than Hartsfield-Jackson, but those airports are in states with stricter gun laws and have fewer gun discoveries.

Local and state laws govern what happens when a gun is found. In Atlanta, a TSA agent sounds an alarm and shuts down the checkpoint lane.

Atlanta police are called to retrieve the gun from the X-ray machine or wherever it is found. Police take the passenger and gun to the airport precinct, and those without a valid license can be arrested. Those who are properly licensed can be released, with their guns returned to them. But TSA typically imposes a fine as high as $7,500.

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