TSA reports a disturbing rise in guns found at area’s airports—but the unanswered question is how many were missed

The Transportation Security Administration has reported that 89 handguns were found at airport security checkpoints in the Baltimore/Washington region in 2022, a sharp increase of nearly 24 percent from the 72 guns caught in 2021. Each of the firearms were discovered during the routine screening of carry-on property at airport security checkpoints.

Thirty-five handguns were caught at Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, 29 were caught at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport and 25 at Washington Dulles International Airport.

The increase in guns at airports was not just limited to the local airports. According to TSA, the troubling trend was nationwide, with 6,542 firearms caught at airport security checkpoints in 2022—a significant increase from the 5,972 detected in 2021 and a spike from the 4,432 detected in 2019 (pre pandemic). Of the guns caught in 2022, approximately 88 percent were loaded. Firearms were caught at 262 airport checkpoints nationwide.

It is unclear if the rise in guns caught is the result of more passengers bringing guns to the airport, TSA doing a better job of catching them, or some combination of both.

Previous reports over the last decade have placed TSA’s failure rate at more than 50 percent and as high as 95, which means the number of guns not caught by TSA could be significantly higher than those there are. Regardless of the numbers of guns caught or not caught, no passenger should have a gun on their person or in their carry-on baggage.

In many cases, passengers can travel with firearms in checked baggage if they are unloaded and packed in a locked hard-side case. Ammunition must be in its original box and can be packed inside the hard-side case, next to the firearm. Even if the box of ammunition is not full, the bullets must be in their original case. The case with the firearm should be brought to the airline check-in counter to be declared to the airline representative. Firearms are transported in the belly of the aircraft so that nobody has access to them during the flight.

It’s important to note that firearm possession laws vary by state and locality. TSA advises travelers to familiarize themselves with state and local firearm laws for each point of travel before departure to ensure that they have the proper gun permits for the states that they are traveling to and from. Airlines may have additional requirements for traveling with firearms and ammunition so travelers should also contact the airline regarding firearm and ammunition carriage policies before arriving at the airport.

More details on how to properly travel with a firearm is available on TSA’s website.

Troy Petenbrink

Troy, also known as The Gay Traveler, is a well known travel and food writer. His has been a regular contributor to a variety of outlets including National Geographic, Travel Channel, DCRefined, CBS Local, and Metro Weekly. He also appears on local Washington news outlets as a travel expert.

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