Hartsfield-Jackson No. 1 for guns caught at TSA checkpoints

The Transportation Security Administration caught a record number of guns carried by passengers in the U.S. in 2021, and officers at Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport caught more than those at any other U.S. airport.

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The Transportation Security Administration caught a record number of guns carried by passengers in the U.S. in 2021, and officers at Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport caught more than those at any other U.S. airport.

Transportation Security Administration officers caught a record 507 firearms at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport security checkpoints in 2021, the agency said.

It’s the sixth year in a row the Atlanta airport has ranked No. 1 for guns uncovered by the TSA in passengers’ carry-on bags. Hartsfield-Jackson’s gun count was far ahead of No. 2 Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, where officers found 317 guns, and Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport, where 245 were discovered.

In Georgia, the rate of guns caught for the volume of passengers was more than double the national rate, according to the TSA. Nationally, one firearm was detected for every 97,999 people screened. In Georgia, it was one firearm detected for every 40,570 people.

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The number of guns caught nationally by the TSA in 2021 eclipsed the previous annual record of 4,432 by October. The year ended with 5,972 guns detected.

Hartsfield-Jackson generated national attention in November when a passenger’s firearm discharged at the main security checkpoint, causing chaos and fear throughout the terminal and concourses and disrupting flights to and from Atlanta, affecting passengers here and around the country.

TSA has long raised an alarm about the increasing number of guns being discovered at airport screenings because of the risk they introduce.

In 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the number of people flying declined 60%, leading to a sharp drop in the number of guns caught. But as travel partially recovered, the number reached levels higher than pre-pandemic counts.

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TSA released figures on how many guns were caught at security checkpoints in Georgia. Source: TSA

Credit: Source: TSA

TSA released figures on how many guns were caught at security checkpoints in Georgia. Source: TSA

Credit: Source: TSA

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TSA released figures on how many guns were caught at security checkpoints in Georgia. Source: TSA

Credit: Source: TSA

Credit: Source: TSA

TSA Administrator David Pekoske said he believes the reason for the increase is “there’s just more firearm carriage in the country,” CBS News reported. TSA also said 86% of firearms it caught were loaded.

Hartsfield-Jackson is among the world’s busiest airports when passenger counts include connecting passengers. But several U.S. airports in larger cities with more local traffic typically have a higher number of passengers passing through security checkpoints than Atlanta. Even so, more guns have been detected in screenings in Atlanta.

Those caught with guns at airport security checkpoints face civil fines of up to $13,900 and risk being charged with a crime. Those who are members of TSA PreCheck are also at risk of losing expedited screening benefits for a period of time.

TSA bars travelers from bringing firearms in carry-on bags or on their person, and advises all passengers to check bags for prohibited items before heading to the airport.


Top 10 airports for firearm discoveries in 2021

1. Hartsfield-Jackson, 507

2. Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, 317

3. Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport, 245

4. Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, 196

5. Nashville International Airport, 163

6. Denver International Airport, 141

7. Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, 128

8. Orlando International Airport, 124

9. Louis Armstrong New Orleans International, 119

10. Salt Lake City International Airport, 115

Source: TSA

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