At Hartsfield-Jackson — which for years has held the title of the world’s busiest airport, though that has yet to be determined for last year — the number of guns found declined 32% in 2020 from 323 in 2019. Passengers counts dropped more than 60% in 2020 as the coronavirus drove a steep decline in air travel.
Nationwide, according to TSA, workers encountered 10 firearms per million passengers, a record high rate that was twice the 2019 rate. In Georgia, firearms were detected at close to twice the national rate in 2020.
“There’s more guns out there,” said TSA spokesman Mark Howell. States with open carry laws tend to have a higher prevalence of gun catches, since more people carry guns with them, he said.
Last year, when airfares dropped along with decreased demand, there were also more inexperienced travelers who might not have been as familiar with the laws and requirements for air travel, Howell said.
Those who are caught with guns at airport security checkpoints risk being charged with a crime and can face civil penalties.
TSA advises travelers to not pack firearms in carry-on bags and to check bags for prohibited items before heading to the airport.
It’s the fifth year in a row that Atlanta has held the No. 1 spot for guns detected by TSA at airport security checkpoints.
While some speculate that the reason is because Hartsfield-Jackson is the world’s busiest, the majority of passengers in Atlanta are only connecting and don’t go through security here.
Number of firearms found by TSA in 2020
Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport: 220
Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport: 176
Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport: 126
Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport: 124
Denver International Airport: 104
Nashville International Airport: 94
Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport: 87
Orlando International Airport: 79
Las Vegas McCarran International Airport: 72
Salt Lake City International Airport: 71
At other Georgia airports:
Savannah-Hilton Head: 6