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US seized record number of guns at airports

By AI HEPING in New York | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2024-01-11 11:37

A record number of guns in carry-on luggage were seized from airline passengers last year, and most were loaded, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) said Wednesday.

In 2023, airport security officers prevented passengers from carrying 6,737 prohibited guns, and 93 percent of them were loaded, the agency said.

The previous record for intercepted firearms at airports was in 2022, with 6,542 firearms stopped at checkpoints, a number that surpassed the previous record in 2021. The number of guns seized at US airports has risen every year since at least 2014, except for in 2020, when travel was limited by the pandemic.

Last year, TSA screened more than 858 million people, which indicates the agency intercepted 7.8 firearms per million passengers — a drop from 8.6 per million passengers in 2022, the agency said.

"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," TSA Administrator David Pekoske said a news release.

More than 1,100 guns were found at just three airports, the TSA said.

Officers at Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, the nation's busiest, found 451 firearms in carry-ons last year, more than any other airport in the country, according to the agency.

At Dallas Fort Worth International Airport, officers found 378 guns, the second most, and 311 were found at Houston's George Bush Intercontinental Airport for the third most.

When TSA staffers see what they believe to be a weapon on an X-ray machine, they usually stop the belt so the bag stays inside the machine, and the passenger can't get to it. They immediately contact local law enforcement, who remove the passenger and the firearm from the checkpoint area, the TSA said.

Depending on local laws, a law enforcement officer could arrest or cite the passenger. TSA does not confiscate firearms.

Firearms and ammunition are 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 warns passengers who bring a gun to a checkpoint that they face a fine of up to $15,000, ineligibility for the PreCheck expedited screening program, and potential criminal charges.

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