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U.S. airport gun confiscations soar

01/15/2014

An analysis of Transportation Security Administration data shows gun confiscation at U.S. airports skyrocketed by 20 percent – a full fifth – in 2013 compared to a year earlier. Northwestern University’s Medill National Security Journalism Initiative (http://nationalsecurityzone.org) reports TSA took 1,828 guns from flyers trying to board flights last year. According to Medill’s S.B. Anderson, “The increase over 2012 is the third annual jump since 2010 – and the largest.”

A disturbing 84 percent of those weapons were loaded.

We don’t know the intent of those pistol-packing passengers, but – when questioned – the most common response was that they’d forgotten the weapon was in their carry-on luggage. That’s been the standard answer for years.

A TSA spokesperson urges “all passengers to check the contents of their bags before leaving home” in order to make sure that they’re not carrying any prohibited items to the airport.

If you do bring a firearm to a TSA checkpoint law enforcement will take your weapon, interview you and then determine if you’re going to be hit with criminal charges. There are civil penalties to be had too – fines of $250 to $11,000 for a single firearm transported to a security checkpoint.

In all, the TSA spokesperson says the agency intercepts some 35 guns and dangerous weapons each week.

Racking up the most firearms among the 207 airports at which TSA confiscated guns is Hartsfield-Jackson International, the planet’s busiest aerodrome. TSA took up 110 of them, most of the .380 caliber and 9mm variety. ATL’s tally was followed up by Dallas/Fort Worth International with 98 and Bush Houston Intercontinental with 67. ATL is Delta’s prime hub. DFW is American’s and IAH is a key hub for United.

Rounding out the top ten airports on TSA’s firearm’s take-up list are Phoenix Sky Harbor (65), Denver International (52), Nashville International (49), Orlando International (47), Seattle/Tacoma International (46), Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International (42) and Las Vegas McCarran International (39).

The Medill National Security Journalism Initiative breaks down the data in even finer grain when it comes to just how near ready to use those confiscated weapons where. While 94 percent of Nashville’s confiscated guns were loaded, 37 percent of those firearms had rounds that were actually chambered. By contrast, although just 72 percent of the firearms taken up in Vegas were loaded, 43 percent of them had chambered bullets. The report did not say how many firearms had gunlocks attached or safeties engaged.

We will leave an elaboration of just what prompts a person to carry a gun in their luggage – cognizant of its presence or not – for another day.

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