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Utah ranks 10th in the nation for most firearms found in carry-on luggage

File photo: Salt Lake City International Airport (Photo credit: Peter Samore)

SALT LAKE CITY — In a new report by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), Utah ranks tenth in the nation for the most firearms discovered in traveler carry-on luggage. In 2020, the TSA says they found a total of 71 firearms in carry-on luggage at Salt Lake City International Airport while conducting routine security checks.

TSA continues to ask travelers to carefully pack their carry-on bags to ensure that firearms are not brought to the security checkpoint,” said TSA Acting Federal Security Director for Utah Grant Goodlett. “TSA officers continue to be focused during their screening duties to ensure that firearms – and other security threats – do not make it into the cabin of an aircraft.”

Locally, the TSA screened approximately 4.2 million departing travelers at the SLC airport in 2020. Of those screenings, statistics show people traveling out of SLC brought firearms in carry-on luggage at a rate of 16.8 firearms per million travelers screened, which is above the 2020 national average. The national average is about 10 firearms per million passengers screened, according to the TSA. 

Compared to previous years, the total number of firearms found at security checkpoints didn’t vary much. In fact, in the year 2020 the TSA  reported the least amount of firearms spotted in carry-on luggage. In 2018,  the TSA reported 73 firearms at security checkpoints, and 81 firearms in 2019. 

National firearm statistics from TSA

It was a record-breaking year for TSA agents. Nationally, the discovery rate of firearms in carry-on luggage doubled in 2020. That year was the highest in the agency’s history. In total, the TSA found 3,257 firearms in carry-on luggage in 2020. 

In 2020, TSA screened approximately 324 million travelers at airports nationwide — only 39% of approximately 824 million screened in 2019. Despite a significant drop in screenings because of the pandemic, the TSA said it detected roughly 10 firearms per million passengers screened as compared to 5 firearms per million passengers screened in 2019. 

TSA firearm statistics (TSA)

The top three airports with the most discoveries were:

  • Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (220 firearm finds) 
  • Dallas Fort Worth International Airport (176 firearm finds)
  • Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport (126 firearm finds)

TSA protocol for traveling with firearms

People are allowed to travel with firearms, but there’s a handful of rules that must be followed in order to do so. Even if someone has a concealed carry permit, they are prohibited from bringing a firearm onto a plane. 

“Firearms can be transported on a commercial aircraft only if they are unloaded, packed in a locked, hard-sided case, and placed in checked baggage,” said the TSA. “Any type of replica firearm is prohibited in carry-on baggage and must be transported in checked luggage.” 

The TSA advises everyone traveling with a firearm to check with the airline they’re flying with for specific instructions. 

If a traveler disobeys these regulations, they could be subjected to civil or criminal penalties. The TSA said they evaluate each firearm situation differently. For example, when determining a civil penalty, the agency considers “whether the firearm was loaded and whether there was accessible ammunition.”

The best piece of advice from the TSA: don’t bring your gun through security. 

For more information about traveling with a firearm, visit here. For a full list of civil penalties and prohibited items on planes, visit here.