700 handguns, most loaded, seized at airport security checkpoints in first half of 2012
Just under 700 guns were discovered at U.S. airport carryon baggage checkpoints in the first half of 2012 — and 1 in 4 of them had a bullet loaded in the firing chamber, a Medill analysis of federal data found. All told, 82% of the 697 guns were loaded and 170 of those “chambered.” (Explore interactive map of guns by airport).
Confiscations by the Transportation Security Administration were up 18% in the second quarter (April-June) compared to the first quarter of the year, the Medill National Security Zone analysis of data compiled from weekly TSA summaries shows. (Download a CSV file of the aggregated data).
Seizures averaged four a day for the period, and Atlanta led the list of airports with the most handguns found at checkpoints, at 44, followed by Dallas-Fort Worth (29), Phoenix (24) and Houston Bush (22). Three were tied at 17 — Dallas, Denver and Fort Lauderdale.
It was not immediately clear how much of that increase might be tied to quarterly growth in overall passenger traffic. But passenger increases only averaged .5% from 2000 to 2010, and were up 2.2% in 2010, federal statistics show. Atlanta, which has had the most seizures so far this year, saw only a 3% increase in passengers from 2010 to 2011.
Airports in four Texas cities combined — Dallas, Fort-Worth, Houston and Austin — made up 12% of all gun confiscations.
What kind of guns were seized across the country?
- The highest share were .38 caliber, with 139 found — 1 of every 5.
- 9mm: 109.
- 380: 102
- 22: 88.
Guns may only be flown as checked baggage — in appropriate packaging — and are not allowed to be carried onboard. They must not be loaded.
The TSA says it immediately alerts local law enforcement when it finds a gun in carryon luggage or concealed on a person. Local authorities determine if charges will be filed — charges that are more serious for those without weapons permits. If a passenger is given a notice to appear in court at a later date, he or she can continue on to the destination (without the weapon).
"In many cases, people simply forgot they had these items," the TSA’s "Blogger Bob," says in his weekly wrap-up of confiscations on the TSA blog. “Just because we find a prohibited item on an individual does not mean they had bad intentions, that’s for the law enforcement officer to decide.”
Various other weapons besides handguns are seized each week at U.S. airports. Those are chronicled weekly in the TSA blog and just in recent weeks have included grenades, knives, axes, stun guns, a bazooka round, throwing stars, a blasting cap and swords. Below: A bazooka round.
View interactive chart of each seizure so far this year.