Transportation Security Administration (TSA) this week announced that officers at six New England airports detected a record 46 firearms in 2022, three more than the previous record of 43 in 2018.
The increase in firearms detected at New England airports mirrored what happened around the country. Throughout 2022, TSA officers nationwide detected a record 6,542 firearms in carry-on bags or on passengers at checkpoints. At New England airports, TSA saw a firearm detection rate of approximately one firearm for every 565,220 passengers. Last year’s rate was approximately one for every 442,800 passengers.
Nationally, 88% of firearms detected by TSA officers were loaded. In New England, the rate of loaded firearms detected was 87%, according to the TSA.
“Gun owners need to know where their firearms are at all times,” said Bob Allison, TSA’s Federal Security Director for Massachusetts in a statement. “We take it very seriously when our officers stop a traveler with a gun during the screening process. Carelessly traveling with a firearm is a public safety concern, considering it could accidentally be discharged during a search. There is a proper way to travel safely with a firearm. Most importantly, it should be unloaded. Then it should be packed in a hard-sided locked case, and taken to the airline check-in counter to be declared, and checked.”
TSA Security Checkpoint Firearm Detections at New England Airports (2020 to 2022):
|BOS||Boston Logan International||31||18||11|
|PVD||Rhode Island T. F. Green International||3||2||4|
|PWM||Portland International Jetport||3||4||2|
Boston Logan International’s 31 firearm detections ranked 51st nationally in 2022, they ranked 71st last year. Bradley and Burlington International, Portland Jetport and Manchester-Boson Regional all saw declines from 2021 detections. The 9mm gun was the most detected firearm at New England airports.
The top five airports where TSA officers detected firearms at checkpoints in 2022 were: Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International with 448; Dallas/Fort Worth International with 385; Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport with 298; Nashville International with 213 and Phoenix Sky Harbor International with 196.
TSA has announced several new measures to mitigate firearm threats including enhanced screening for passengers in possession of a firearm at a TSA checkpoint and loss of TSA PreCheck® eligibility for up to five years. In December 2022, TSA also increased the maximum civil penalty for a firearms violation to nearly $15,000.
Firearms at TSA checkpoints represent an unnecessary risk and an expensive mistake for passengers who do not follow requirements to declare firearms in advance and properly pack them in checked baggage.
In some cities, TSA says that local law enforcement may file criminal charges against travelers who bring firearms to the TSA checkpoint. TSA will assess civil penalties that vary by number of previous offenses and whether the firearm was loaded at the time. The complete list of penalties is posted online. Firearms are not permitted in the passenger cabin of an airplane; this includes travelers with a concealed weapon permit.
Airline passengers can fly with firearms in checked baggage if the firearms are properly packed and declared at check-in. However, firearm possession laws vary by state and locality. TSA advises travelers to familiarize themselves with state and local firearm laws for each point of travel prior to departure to ensure they transport guns in accordance with applicable laws.
Airlines may have additional requirements for traveling with firearms and ammunition, so travelers should also contact the airline regarding firearm and ammunition carriage policies prior to arriving at the airport.
Where local firearm possession laws permit, TSA says that passengers may travel with firearms in checked baggage if they are unloaded and packed in a locked hard-sided case. Ammunition must be in its original box and can be packed inside the hard-side case next to the firearm. Even if the box of ammunition is not full, the bullets must be in their original case. The passenger must present the case with the firearm at the airline check-in counter and inform the airline representative of their intention to travel with the gun. Firearms are transported with checked baggage and are placed in the cargo hold of the aircraft.
Data collected represents the number of firearms caught on passengers and in their carry-on bags at the nation’s TSA checkpoints. Excluded from the data are improperly packed firearms at checked baggage stations, toys, replicas and BB guns. Visit the TSA website for details on traveling properly with a firearm.