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Sunday, November 27, 2022
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Record Number of Guns at Airport Checkpoints Including 11 in One Week at IAH

Boston Logan International Airport has seen more firearms at the checkpoint already this year than ever before.

Passengers at George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) continue to bring a record number of guns to the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) security checkpoints. As of September 27, TSA officers at IAH have prevented 216 guns from making it onboard airplanes.

From September 18 through 25, 11 guns were stopped from making it onboard airplanes by TSA officers. This included three firearms caught in one day on September 21. In every case, Houston Police Department was called to respond and adjudicate the incident.

“Each gun presents a danger and any incident could have tragic results,” said TSA Federal Security Director for IAH Juan Sanchez. “This ominous trend continues across the country. Passengers should know exactly where their gun is before they enter the airport and make sure that it is not in a backpack, purse, suitcase or any carry-on that you plan to bring into the security checkpoint.”

IAH Airport consistently ranks in the top five airports across the U.S. where travelers bring firearms in carry-on luggage.

Elsewhere, Boston Logan International Airport has seen more firearms at the checkpoint already this year than ever before. On September 26, TSA officers at the airport stopped a male passenger from carrying a loaded firearm onto an airplane. Massachusetts State Police (MSP) responded and discovered a loaded .22 caliber firearm. MSP then took possession of the firearm and informed the Massachusetts man he would receive summons to appear in court.

It was the 21st firearm stopped by TSA officers in 2022, surpassing the previous record total of 20 which was recorded in 2018.

“Even if you have a valid permit to carry, there are proper procedures passenger’s still have follow in order to travel with a firearm,” said Bob Allison, TSA’s Federal Security Director for Massachusetts. “Carelessly traveling with a loaded firearm is dangerous and a public safety concern, considering it could accidentally be discharged during a search. Gun owners need to ensure they know where their firearm is before traveling to the airport.”

Passengers at El Paso International Airport (ELP) also continue to bring a record number of guns to security checkpoints. As of September 27, TSA officers at ELP have prevented 27 guns from making it onboard airplanes surpassing the 2021 total of 25 guns found in traveler’s carry-on luggage. From September 10 through 22, four guns were stopped from making it onboard airplanes by TSA officers. In every case, El Paso Police Department was called to respond and adjudicate the incident.

“At ELP, TSA officers have surpassed the number of gun finds for 2021, and we still have over three months left in the year,” said TSA Federal Security Director for ELP Jared Babin. “Thanksgiving and Christmas travel seasons always bring a high number of travelers and an increase in prohibited items found in carry-on luggage. Passengers should know exactly where their gun is before they enter the airport and make sure that it is not in a backpack, purse, suitcase or any carry-on that you plan to bring into the security checkpoint.” 

These are not the only airports seeing record totals or multiple catches in a short space of time. We recently reported that the current total of 581 guns detected at Florida airports is going to eclipse previous years, and that seven guns were detected in five days at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. 

Passengers who try to board a flight with a gun face a civil penalty from the TSA that can be as much as $13,910 and that is imposed regardless of whether the individual is arrested by law enforcement. If the traveler is in the TSA PreCheck program, those privileges will be lost for a period of time and often travelers with firearms in carry-on luggage miss their flights. Given the high stakes, it is astonishing that so many travelers still arrive at checkpoints with guns they “didn’t know” were there.

Kylie Bielby
Kylie Bielby has more than 20 years' experience in reporting and editing a wide range of security topics, covering geopolitical and policy analysis to international and country-specific trends and events. Before joining GTSC's Homeland Security Today staff, she was an editor and contributor for Jane's, and a columnist and managing editor for security and counter-terror publications.

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