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TSA confiscated 20 percent more guns in 2013, findings show

  • TSA guns 1.jpg

    This heat map provided by the Medill National Security Journalism Initiative shows shows the largest concentrations of weapons confiscated in airports across the US. (Medill National Security Journalism Initiative)

  • TSA guns 2.jpg

     (Medill National Security Journalism Initiative)

  • TSA guns 3.jpg

     (Medill National Security Journalism Initiative)

The TSA confiscated 20 percent more guns at airports in 2013, with the Atlanta airport having the most seizures at 110, according to a new report.

An average of five guns per day was seized in airports across the nation last year according to the report by the Medill National Security Journalism Initiative. Some 1,828 were confiscated in all, making it the third straight year of an increase in confiscations. Last year also marked the largest increase to date, with a 20 percent jump.

The initiative based its report on publicly available data released weekly by the TSA on its blog. The agency's official count for the year will not be released until the end of the week, but it is expected to be slightly higher, the initiative said.

The initiative concluded that at least one gun was found in 207 airports across the country and one out of every four airports had ten or more confiscations, with Atlanta having the most at 110.

Phoenix had 65 confiscations, while Denver had 52. Of the ten airports in the country with the highest confiscation rates, at least 70 percent of the seized weapons were loaded.

Trailing behind was Dallas-Fort Worth airport with 98 guns confiscated and Bush International in Houston with 67. Nearly half of all the guns confiscated across the country were .380 and 9mm pistols.

Some experts say that the findings are not all that significant.

“If you look at the numbers, none of them are terrorists,” Douglas Laird, an airport security expert and former secret service agent told “They are people who violated TSA rules.”

“I have mixed feelings about the numbers,” he said, adding, “99.9999 percent of the people who had gun confiscated were not going to commit terrorist acts.”

“It doesn’t show that they [TSA] are making tremendous strides.”

TSA officials declined to comment on the significance of the increased confiscations, but the agency has said in previous reports that it may be due to the continuing rise in the number of weapons Americans are carrying.

In a statement to Monday night, it said,"TSA screens approximately 1.8 million passengers and their luggage every day for prohibited items, including weapons and explosives. TSA alerts law enforcement when a firearm is intercepted at a checkpoint. Law enforcement takes possession of the weapon, interviews the passenger, and determines any criminal charges.”

The statement added that civil charges can be filed and the passenger could fined up to $11,000. As of December 17, 2013, it said, the TSA had found approximately 1,750 firearms nationwide.

Most of the weapons confiscated in 2013 had gun permits and were found in the carry-on luggage of passengers.

The TSA states that guns must be declared to the airline on check-in, must be included with checked luggage and cannot be brought into the main cabin.


Perry Chiaramonte is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter at @perrych

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