Hartsfield-Jackson again No. 1 airport for guns caught at checkpoints

Passengers head through the security check at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport Friday, July 1, 2022. (Steve Schaefer / steve.schaefer@ajc.com)

Credit: Steve Schaefer

Credit: Steve Schaefer

Passengers head through the security check at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport Friday, July 1, 2022. (Steve Schaefer / steve.schaefer@ajc.com)

Hartsfield-Jackson International again had the most guns caught at security checkpoints of any airport in the nation, according to Transportation Security Administration figures for 2023.

There were a total of 451 firearms recovered at TSA checkpoints at the Atlanta airport last year, according to TSA. It’s the eight year in a row that the Atlanta airport has had the most guns intercepted in the country.

That’s more than the 378 firearms caught at Dallas Fort Worth International Airport in the No. 2 spot, and the 311 detected at Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport at No. 3.

Across the country, there were a record 6,737 guns caught at airport security checkpoints in 2023 — and 93% of the guns were loaded, according to TSA.

The agency screened a record 858 million passengers in the year nationally, and the rate of guns caught per million passengers declined to 7.8 last year from 8.6 in 2022. An average of 18 firearms a day were caught at TSA checkpoints across the U.S. in the last three months of the year, the agency said.

“We are still seeing far too many firearms at TSA checkpoints, and what’s particularly concerning is the amount of them loaded, presenting an unnecessary risk to everyone at the TSA checkpoint,” said TSA Administrator David Pekoske in a written statement.

But the total number of gun discoveries at Hartsfield-Jackson was not a record last year. It still fell short of the record 507 guns detected at security checkpoints at the Atlanta airport in 2021.

Firearms and ammunition are prohibited in carry-on bags on airlines. Passengers can travel with an unloaded gun if properly packed in a locked, hard-sided case in their checked bag and declared before flying at the airline check-in counter.

When a gun is detected at an airport checkpoint, TSA notifies Atlanta police to respond to the checkpoint.

Those caught with guns at airport checkpoints risk being charged and could face civil fines of up to about $15,000. TSA also says those caught can lose their eligibility for the TSA PreCheck trusted traveler program for up to five years.

While Hartsfield-Jackson is the world’s busiest airport based on total passenger counts, some other airports may have more passengers going through security checkpoints. That’s because the Atlanta airport has such a large share of connecting passengers as Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines’ largest hub, and connecting passengers do not go through security in Atlanta.

Top 10 airports for firearm discoveries at TSA checkpoints in 2023

Ranking, airport, firearms discovered

1. Atlanta, 451

2. Dallas Fort Worth, 378

3. Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental, 311

4. Phoenix Sky Harbor, 235

5. Nashville, 188

6. Denver, 178

7. Orlando International, 164

8. Tampa, 144

9. Fort Lauderdale, 135

10. Dallas Love Field, 125

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