Statistics stories are often quite dry and boring but occasionally one leaps out at you. How about the following?
In 2016, Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officers discovered 3,391 firearms in carry-on bags at checkpoints across the US, averaging nine firearms per day, approximately a 28 percent increase in firearm discoveries from the total of 2,653 in 2015. Astonishingly, eighty-three per cent of the guns caught in 2016 were loaded.
Greater Rochester International Airport saw the most improvement as no travelers brought firearms to the airport’s checkpoint in 2016 compared to five that were brought to the checkpoint in 2015. Go Greater Rochester! On the other hand, Buffalo-Niagara International Airport saw an increase in the number of guns brought to the airport’s checkpoint, when six guns were detected in 2016 compared to just two in 2015. Good people of Buffalo – what were you thinking?
The top five airports where TSA officers detected guns at checkpoints in 2016 were: Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International with 198; Dallas/Fort Worth International with 192; George Bush Intercontinental at Houston with 128; Phoenix Sky Harbor International with 101; and Denver International with 98. These same airports were in the top five for guns at checkpoints in 2014 and 2015.
The Upstate New York region saw 10 firearms detected by TSA officers at checkpoints in 2015 and again in 2016.
What are the human stories behind these statistics? Well, a man was caught with a gun at Washington Dulles International Airport on Sunday, January 15 after TSA officers caught him trying to carry a handgun past a security checkpoint. The .45 caliber handgun was not loaded, however the carry-on bag also contained a magazine with five bullets along with five additional bullets that were loose in the same bag.
He has my sympathy. I often leave a machine pistol in my toilet bag by mistake and have to call a relative to collect it from me at the airport before flying.
Despite these rash of weapon detections, Insider finds it extraordinary that under TSA regulations, firearms, firearm parts and ammunition can be legally transported in checked bags if they are unloaded, properly packed and declared to the airline. The unloaded firearms need to be stored in a locked hard-sided container as checked baggage only. Passengers also need to declare the firearm and/or ammunition to the airline when checking their bag at the ticket counter. “Locked cases that can be easily opened are not permitted,” the TSA guidelines state. Well that’s a relief.
It also stresses airlines may have additional requirements for traveling with firearms and ammunition and passengers should contact them before travelling about these policies.
It also true that firearm possession laws vary by state and locality in the US. TSA advises travellers to “familiarize themselves with state and local firearm laws for each point of travel prior to departure to ensure that they have the proper gun permits for the states that they are traveling to and from.”
This does sound a bit complicated. Indeed, it sounds like a recipe for confusion, on board disputes and a bad passenger experience all round. Insider, however, has a simple solution to all this. When flying folks, just leave your guns at home in a locked cupboard. Preferably out of the reach of small children or unstable adults on strong medication. Thank you and a Happy New Year.