Preparing to fly somewhere, whether for work or vacation, means packing all the items you think you might need. Apparently, for some travelers, that includes packing heat.
In 2014, federal Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officers discovered 2,212 firearms inside carry-on bags at screening checkpoints at U.S. airports. The record haul represents a 22% increase over 2013 and is three times the number of firearms discovered in carry-on bags in 2005.
Of the guns discovered last year at 224 airports, 83% were loaded. The firearms ranged from a .38 caliber revolver that a 94-year-old man had clipped to his belt to an assault rifle with three magazines.
TSA officers screened about 1.8 million passengers a day in 2014, for an annual total of more than 653 million. That equated to 443 million checked bags and 1.7 billion carry-on bags, according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
Those checkpoint inspections revealed an average of six guns a day.
Security inspectors at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport led the nation in gun discoveries, with 120. Three Texas airports made the top 10 list, along with three in Florida and one each in Georgia, Arizona, Colorado and Tennessee.
TSA rules allow firearms to be transported only as checked baggage. They must be unloaded and locked inside a hard-sided container. Passengers must declare any guns to airline representatives when checking in for their flight.
In addition to firearms, many other potentially dangerous items are prohibited in carry-on bags, including such obviously problematic objects as hand grenades, brass knuckles, cattle prods, flares and sabers.
The Transportation Security Administration was formed in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The agency’s more than 50,000 employees, including inspectors, security officers and air marshals, are assigned to hundreds of airports, subway systems, train stations and other mass transit locations around the country.
“This is critically important work, and our employees’ achievements are self-evident,” Homeland Security Secretary Jeh C. Johnson said in a January 2015 statement.
Of course, weapons aren’t the only prohibited items discovered by airport screeners. For example, a passenger at San Jose International Airport tried to smuggle almost 3 pounds of cocaine hidden inside a package of raw meat.
As recently as March 2015, a TSA officer at New York City’s LaGuardia Airport found a Chihuahua inside a suitcase. (Yes, a Chihuahua.) According to the agency, the dog snuck inside while its owner was packing.