Last month, TSA officers found 15.3 guns per million people compared to 5.1 guns per million in July 2019, the agency said. TSA called the numbers "alarming" because the agency screened 75% fewer passengers in July 2020 compared to July 2019.
TSA Administrator David Pekoske said even more alarming is that approximately 80% of guns in carry-on bags are loaded. "It's just an accident waiting to happen," Pekoske said in a written statement.
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"TSA is diligently working to ensure our employees and passengers are safe and secure while traveling during a pandemic, and yet we are noticing a significant increase in loaded firearms coming into checkpoints," Pekoske said. "Travelers must understand that firearms are prohibited items at airports and in the passenger cabins of aircraft. As hard as we are working to mitigate other risks at this time, no one should be introducing new ones."
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Passengers are allowed to travel with unloaded firearms in their checked baggage, as long as they are packed in a hard-sided case, locked and separate from any ammunition. Firearms in checked baggage also must be declared at check-in. No firearms, replica guns or ammunition are permitted in carry-on bags. TSA said the recommended penalty for an unloaded gun starts at $2,050, and goes up to $4,100 for a loaded gun.
Last year, TSA said 4,432 guns were found in carry-on bags across the country, 87% of which were loaded.