Hartsfield-Jackson International remains far ahead of any other airport in the country in the number of firearms uncovered at security checkpoints so far this year, according to the latest federal data.
Nationally, the Transportation Security Administration found 4,495 guns in carry-on bags from January 1 through October 3 — a record, even though fewer people have flown during the COVID-19 pandemic. That’s more than the number for the whole year of 2019, when the previous record was set, with 4,432.
The agency said the spike is reflective of increased gun ownership throughout the nation.
“The number of firearms that our TSA officers are stopping at airport checkpoints is alarming,” said TSA Administrator David Pekoske in a written statement.
At the Atlanta airport, TSA workers have stopped passengers from bringing a record 391 firearms beyond security checkpoints in 2021. That’s up from 220 last year when passenger counts were down 60%, and up from 323 in all of 2019.
In second place behind Hartsfield-Jackson is Dallas Fort Worth International with 232 firearms caught, about 40% less than Atlanta’s total.
Five other airports had between 100 and 200 guns uncovered, and the rest of the airports had fewer than 100 so far this year.
Hartsfield-Jackson is among the world’s busiest airports when connecting passengers are included. But several other U.S. airports typically have more passengers passing through security checkpoints. Even so, more guns have been detected in screenings in Atlanta.
For the year through Oct. 3, TSA stopped 30 firearms per million passengers screened at Hartsfield-Jackson checkpoints. That’s more than twice the national rate of 11 firearms per million passengers screened in that period.
Hartsfield-Jackson’s rate so far this year is also higher than the roughly 20 firearms per million passengers screened at the Atlanta airport in 2020, and 8.5 firearms per million passengers in 2019. Nationally, there were 10 firearms per million passengers in 2020 and 5 firearms per million passengers in 2019.
Those who are caught with guns at airport security checkpoints are at risk of being charged with a crime and can face civil penalties.
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
Firearms uncovered at airport security checkpoints from Jan. 1 through Oct. 3, 2021
Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson: 391
Dallas Fort Worth: 232
Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental: 168
Phoenix Sky Harbor: 147
Fort Lauderdale: 107
Salt Lake City: 90
New Orleans: 90
Dallas Love Field: 88