For reasons that aren't entirely clear, Transportation Security Administration agents keep detecting pink guns during routine airport security screenings.
"Notice a theme here?" the TSA posted on its Instagram page with a photo of several rose-colored weapons discovered recently at U.S. airports.
This hot pink Ruger and the ammo that goes with it were found about a month ago at Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport:
This pink Hello Kitty piece was detected the other day at Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks, Conn.:
TSA regional spokesperson Mark Howell couldn’t say why so many pink guns are being detected, but noted an increase in travelers and the number of guns owned in the country.
“More passengers plus more people carrying equals more guns through the checkpoint,” he said. “We’re finding them a lot more.”
A pair of studies from the Department of Justice and the University of Chicago, both from 2015, show both a spike in gun manufacturing and a decrease in gun-holding households. (See the charts below).
The concurrent increase in guns and decrease in gun owners isn’t a new trend.
“The number of U.S. households with guns has declined, but current gun owners are gathering more guns,” CNN noted in a 2012 analysis, citing data from Injury Prevention Journal, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, the General Social Survey and population figures from the U.S. Census Bureau.
We weren’t able to track down empirical data on ownership of pink guns, but anecdotal evidence abounds.
“Believe it or not one of the top searches on GunsAmerica is for ‘pink guns,’” reads a post on GunsAmerica.com, an online site for gun buyers, sellers and dealers. “Is it an indication of the burgeoning female demographic within the firearms community? Is pink just a popular color for guns? Are guys looking to buy their girlfriend or wife a present?”
Lawful owners of firearms of any color may fly with them but must follow strict guidelines. They are allowed in checked luggage only, and must be in a locked hard-sided case with padding. The ammunition must be kept in a separate case. Again, the full list of guidelines is posted here .
The weapons must be declared and - this is really key - they must be unloaded.
"About 80 percent of the guns we find are loaded," Howell said.
How many guns are we talking about? Thousands each year - again, 80 percent of which are loaded.
The TSA detected 2,212 guns nationwide in 2014, 2,653 in 2015 and more than 1,500 so far in 2016, Howell said. Most of the guns the TSA finds are detected here in Atlanta, at the world's busiest airport.
Here's a look at the growth in national gun manufacturing:
Here's a look at gun ownership stats by state:
And here's a look of who's packing what, where:
Finally, note this data showing that the number of gun-owning households is on the decline; numerous studies indicate that while fewer people own guns, gun owners are adding to their holdings:
Almost everyone caught trying to get a weapon through security says it was an accident, Howell said.
"There’s hardly ever any intent," he said. "It’s always, 'Oops I forgot or somebody packed my bag for me and didn't look.' When you come to the airport and check your bag you’re responsible with it."
She told TSA agents they could have the 380 Ruger semi-automatic pistol and toss it but she wound up booked into the Clayton County jail instead, her hardware booked into evidence at the Atlanta Police Department. She told agents she had a weapons permit but could not produce it, an Atlanta police report said.
“I was running really late to the airport, so I was throwing a lot of stuff into my purse so I could get there and the gun is really small and it was in the bottom of my purse,” she said during an interview with toofab. “I just forgot it was in there. I couldn’t see it, so when I went through security check, they pretty much found it.”
Howell suggests passengers who own weapons take time to make sure they don't accidentally send it through airport security.
"We’re asking folks to take five minutes before they go to the airport to make sure (there's no weapon in carry-on baggage)," Howell continued. "It really doesn’t matter what kind of gun you have - or what color it is."