In a record-breaking year for the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), a total of 6,737 firearms were intercepted at airport security checkpoints throughout 2023. This figure not only surpasses the previous year’s record of 6,542 firearms but also stands as the highest one-year total in TSA’s history. Notably, about 93% of these intercepted firearms were loaded.
The TSA’s vigilance in 2023 was reflected in their screening of over 858 million individuals. Analysis of these figures shows that the agency intercepted approximately 7.8 firearms per million passengers, marking a decrease from the 8.6 per million passengers in 2022.
“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. “Firearms and ammunition are strictly prohibited in carry-on baggage. Passengers are only allowed to travel with an unloaded firearm, and only if they pack it properly in a locked, hard-sided case in their checked baggage and first declare it to the airline at the check-in counter.”
TSA’s Protocol When Firearms are Detected at Checkpoints
In the last quarter of 2023, ending December 31, Transportation Security Officers (TSOs) stopped 1,665 firearms at checkpoints, averaging about 18 firearms per day. Similar to the yearly trend, nearly 93% of these firearms were loaded.
The TSA’s protocol when a firearm is detected at a security checkpoint involves the immediate notification of local law enforcement. The law enforcement officers are responsible for removing the passenger and the firearm from the checkpoint area. The response to such incidents varies based on local laws, with the passenger potentially facing arrest or citation. It’s important to note that TSA does not confiscate firearms themselves.
TSA Imposes Civil Penalties and Revokes PreCheck Eligibility for Firearm Violations
In addition to any local law enforcement action, the TSA imposes its own consequences on passengers who bring a firearm to a checkpoint. These include a civil penalty of up to approximately $15,000, revocation of TSA PreCheck® eligibility for a minimum of five years, and potentially enhanced screening to rule out other threats.
For guidance on how to properly travel with firearms, TSA directs individuals to the “transporting firearms and ammunition” page on TSA.gov. The TSA.gov website also hosts a complete list of penalties related to firearm incidents at TSA checkpoints.
The TSA has also published a 2023 Firearms infographic, providing a visual representation of these statistics and trends.