Transportation Security Administration officers stopped 4,495 passengers attempting to carry firearms through airport security checkpoints in the first nine months of 2021, the agency announced Wednesday. That's up from 4,432 stops in 2019 and sets a 20-year record.
Officers found firearms at 248 different airports across the country. Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport had the most discoveries with 391, followed by Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport with 232 and George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston with 168, the agency said.
Eleven firearms were discovered in a carry-on bag per every million passengers screened in the U.S. so far this year. TSA said the penalty for attempting to bring a firearm through airport security varies per case.
"The number of firearms that our TSA officers are stopping at airport checkpoints is alarming," said TSA Administrator David Pekoske. "Firearms, particularly loaded firearms, introduce an unnecessary risk at checkpoints, have no place in the passenger cabin of an airplane, and represent a very costly mistake for the passengers who attempt to board a flight with them."
The agency noted that it still set the record with three months left in the calendar year and despite the total number of travelers being down due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Per TSA guidance, firearms are not permitted inside carry-on bags. However, travelers can pack unloaded firearms in a locked, hard-sided case in checked baggage. The agency advises passengers to review federal and state firearm laws before traveling with one. Airlines may have additional requirements for traveling with guns and ammunition.