Denver International Airport set a new record for firearms intercepted by TSA agents last year amid a surge in gun seizures at U.S. security checkpoints.
The 156 firearms intercepted from carry-on luggage ranked seventh among all U.S. airports, the Transportation Security Administration said Tuesday. That breaks down to a gun detected for 1 in every 137,175 travelers who passed through DIA’s three checkpoints.
Total seizures increased from 141 in 2021, though DIA’s national ranking actually dropped one spot, from sixth to seventh. As recently as 2019, DIA ranked third on the national list.
Firearms seizures have grown at a much quicker pace nationally, with the 2022 total of 6,542 seizures up nearly 48% since 2019. DIA’s seizures grew 11% during the same period. Gun interceptions dipped during the pandemic but have since recovered to the pre-pandemic growth trajectory on the national level.
Federal regulations allow firearms to be transported on a commercial airliner only if they’re packed in a checked bag, with the gun unloaded and stored in a locked, hard-sided case. Travelers also must declare the firearm at the ticket counter for their airline, which may have additional requirements.
“I am asking all travelers to do better this year by checking the contents of carry-on luggage prior to coming to the airport and packing firearms properly for transport on a commercial aircraft,” said Larry Nau, TSA’s federal security director for Colorado, in a news release issued Tuesday. “For those who choose not to follow the rules, you will have contact with airport law enforcement and face a stiff civil penalty.”
Criminal charges also are possible, since TSA agents summon law-enforcement officers each time they detect a gun in a carry-on bag.
The maximum civil fine the TSA can assess is $14,950, but the amount for an intercepted gun varies based on whether the weapon was loaded, ammunition was readily accessible, the traveler has past violations and other factors. The TSA also can suspend a traveler’s PreCheck or “trusted traveler” status.
Topping the 2022 gun seizures list was Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, which had 448 firearms intercepted, followed by Dallas-Fort Worth (385) and Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental (298).
While DIA ranked third among U.S. airports for passenger traffic in 2021, the most recent year available, it was the 10th-busiest airport last year in terms of passengers screened by TSA.
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