More guns caught at ATL airport security, even with fewer passengers

One of the firearms detected at a Hartsfield-Jackson checkpoint in May. Source: TSA
One of the firearms detected at a Hartsfield-Jackson checkpoint in May. Source: TSA

More guns were caught last month at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport security checkpoints than at the same time last year, even though there were far fewer passengers because of the coronavirus.

While there were 23 guns caught in July 2019 at Transportation Security Administration screening at the Atlanta airport, that increased to 27 guns caught last month. TSA in a press release called the figures “particularly alarming.”

The increase came in spite of passenger traffic falling to a fraction of what it was pre-pandemic. Daily passenger counts at Hartsfield-Jackson are still only about 30% of what they were last year, according to airport general manager John Selden.

TSA said the rate of guns caught at airport security checkpoints nationwide has tripled during the pandemic, amid a 75% drop in travel in July. The rate last month was 15.3 guns detected per million people screened, up from 5.1 guns per million a year ago. Last year, an average of about 12 firearms were found per day at airport checkpoints across the country.

“As hard as we are working to mitigate other risks at this time, no one should be introducing new ones,” said TSA Administrator David Pekoske in a written statement. He added that 80% of firearms found at the checkpoint are loaded.

Those who are caught with guns at airport security checkpoints risk arrest and can face civil penalties of up to $13,669.

According to Georgia gun dealers, gun sales began spiking early on in the pandemic. Other areas of the country have seen similar increases.

Even though it isn’t the airport with the most passengers going through security checkpoints, Hartsfield-Jackson often ranks as the airport with the most guns caught at checkpoints. That held true this July.

After Atlanta’s 27 guns caught, the next highest airports were Dallas-Fort Worth and Denver International, with 13 each, followed by Nashville with 12.

TSA advises travelers not to pack their firearm in a carry-on bag and to check bags for prohibited items before heading to the airport.

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