Last year the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) found 1,549 firearms on passengers, and in May set the record for the most guns seized in one week with 65 guns in all, 45 loaded and 15 with bullets in the chamber.
The TSA didn’t keep statistics on guns found before 2011, but officials have noticed an increased trend in recent years, spokesman David Castelveter told the AP.
Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta has the most guns found out of the 12 airports with the most incidents at 96. Dallas-Fort Worth International in Texas has 80 incidents, Phoenix Sky Harbor has 54 and Orlando International Airport in Florida has 36.
“We don’t analyze the behavioral traits of people who carry weapons. We’re looking for terrorists,” said Castelveter. “But sometimes you have to scratch your head and say, ‘Why?’”
TSA screeners found 894 firearms in the first six months of this year in carry-on bags and on passengers.
Depending on the gun laws in the state where the airport is located, if a passenger is arrested for having a firearm. If there are tolerant gun laws, TSA screeners will hand the gun back and recommend locking it in a safe place.
“I forgot it was there,” is the most common excuse used by passengers, said Castelveter. The TSA doesn’t think every passenger is a terrorists but they can’t explain why so many bring firearms.
Most gun owners are used to carrying concealed weapons when it is no different than carrying keys or a wallet, Jimmy Taylor, a sociology professor at Ohio University-Zanesville told the AP.
“My wife and I check on things like eye drops and Chapstick to see if we’re allowed to take them on a plane, so it’s a little difficult to imagine that you aren’t checking the policies about your loaded firearm before you get to the airport,” said Taylor.
The strong gun culture located in the South and West had the greatest number of gun related incidents in airports, according to TSA data.
In New York, John F. Kennedy International Airport had 27 million screenings and only found one passenger with a firearm.
“There are some Americans who believe that there are no limits, that they not only have a constitutional but a God-given right to have a gun and ‘By gosh, if I want to bring a gun on a plane I’m going to do it,’” said Robert Spitzer, a professor at the State University of New York-Cortland.
Guns are only allowed on flights if they are checked baggage and require paperwork that lists the guns being carried with a hard-sided bag with a lock.
The count of guns found by the TSA doesn’t include, air guns, BB guns, flare guns, pellet guns, spear guns and starter pistols.