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TSA says 58 guns were seized at MSP Airport in 2022, penalties increase

The agency says just short of 6,600 firearms were seized at airports in 2022, up from a record 5,972 the year before.

MINNEAPOLIS — According to their latest estimates, the TSA seized around 6,600 guns at airport security checkpoints in 2022, a new record.

It was a steady increase from 5,972 guns in 2021 and a substantial increase from a decade ago when 1,549 guns were seized in 2012. The TSA says the majority of the weapons seized were loaded. 

On a local level, federal authorities say they detected 58 firearms at MSP Airport checkpoints in 2022, the fourth year in a row that number has climbed. Crunch the numbers, and that breaks down to a rate of one firearm discovered for every 197,238 passengers screened. 

“It’s a nationwide problem. We continue to see way too many people bringing guns to checkpoints,” TSA spokesperson Jessica Mayle says.

When a gun is found at the security checkpoint Mayle says the whole security lane can shut down for several minutes, slowing down hundreds of travelers.

“When it happens, we leave the gun in the x-ray. We call in local airport police and they come in and take the weapon. From there, there can be local criminal charges involved. You might miss your flight that day. You might get a ticket. You might get arrested,” Mayle explains.

The TSA may also slap on a penalty of their own. The agency recently decided to increase the maximum penalty from $13,910 in 2022, to $14,950 in 2023.

“Bringing a firearm to the checkpoint is an expensive, dangerous mistake that far too many people are making,” said Minnesota TSA Federal Security Director Marty Robinson. “Our TSA officers are doing a fantastic job preventing weapons from making their way onboard aircraft, but the responsibility falls to passengers to pack smart and keep prohibited items out of their baggage.”

Besides the fine, convenience is at stake: TSA can revoke the passenger’s eligibility for their TSA PreCheck program for up to five years for a firearms violation.

“Overwhelmingly when we find a gun at the checkpoint people tell us ‘Oh my gosh, I totally forgot I had that in my bag.’ They weren’t thinking," Mayle explains. "They weren’t intentionally trying to smuggle this weapon onto the aircraft, but as we always say, that’s no excuse. A responsible gun owner always knows where their gun is at all times.”

The TSA believes this trend of seeing more guns at security checkpoints is due to the overall increase in gun ownership in the United States.

According to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, in the year 2000, around 8.5 million firearm background checks were performed.

Last year that number was around 31 million, and the numbers were even higher during the pandemic.

"People should know that even if you're a responsible gun owner, even if you have a concealed carry permit, there is no special rule for you. They are never allowed in the checkpoint, never allowed in the cabin of the airplane,” Mayle explains.

While the TSA never wants to see a gun at one of their security checkpoints, Mayle says there is a safe way to transport guns at the airport.

“The rules are different for each state and jurisdiction, but the gist is that you need to put your gun in a locked hard-sided case. Ammunition needs to be separate. Your gun needs to be unloaded and then you need to declare it to the airline when you go to the check-in counter,” Mayle says.

Here is a list of the airports with the most guns detected and confiscated in 2022. 

  1. Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) - 448
  2. Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) - 385
  3. Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) - 298
  4. Nashville International Airport (BNA) - 213
  5. Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX) - 196
  6. Orlando International Airport (MCO) - 162
  7. Denver International Airport (DEN) - 156
  8. Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (AUS) -150
  9. Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL) - 134
  10. Tampa International Airport (TPA) -131

The TSA has a helpful “how-to” safely and legally transport a firearm guide on its website.

Click here to learn the safe way to transport firearms and ammunition at the airport.

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