Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officers at Sacramento International Airport (SMF) detected 50 firearms in travelers’ carry-on luggage in 2022. Every one of these firearms was discovered during the routine X-ray screening of carry-on property. Nationwide last year, TSA officers found 6,542 firearms at 262 different airports.
TSA officers at SMF in 2022 broke a record for the number of firearms discovered in travelers’ carry-on luggage at the security checkpoint, exceeding 2021 levels by one firearm. This is not a record we wanted to break,” said TSA Federal Security Director for Sacramento Sid Hanna. “Today, we are asking firearm owners to be more cautious and follow the simple and straightforward rules for transporting firearms on a commercial aircraft.”
In 2022, TSA screened approximately 761 million passengers and crew at airports nationwide. TSA officers across the country discovered firearms in carry-on luggage at a rate of 8.6 firearms per million passengers screened. Stated another way, TSA detected one firearm for every 116,394 travelers screened.
At SMF, TSA screened approximately 6.14 million departing passengers and crew in 2022. TSA officers at SMF discovered firearms in carry-on luggage at a rate of about eight firearms per million passengers screened. This calculates to a rate of one firearm discovery for every 122,293 travelers screened, below the national average.
The five U.S. airports with the most TSA firearm discoveries are Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, which topped the list with 448 firearm finds. Dallas Fort Worth International Airport came in second with 385, followed by Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport with 298, Nashville International Airport with 213, and Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport with 196. Orlando International Airport; Denver International Airport; Austin-Bergstrom International Airport; Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, and Tampa International Airport round out the Top 10.
When a TSA officer sees the image of a firearm on the X-ray screen, TSA immediately notifies the local airport law enforcement agency, which response to the security checkpoint. A law enforcement officer removes the firearm from the X-ray tunnel and contacts the traveler. What happens to the firearm and the traveler is up to the discretion of the airport law enforcement agency.
In addition to potential criminal citations for bringing a firearm in carry-on luggage, TSA can levy a civil penalty again the traveler. Among the factors, TSA considers when determining the civil penalty amount include whether the firearm was loaded and whether there was accessible ammunition. Even if a traveler has a concealed weapons permit, firearms are not permitted in carry-on luggage.
Individuals who violate rules regarding traveling with firearms will have Trusted Traveler status and TSA PreCheck® expedited screening benefits revoked. The duration of the disqualification will depend upon the seriousness of the offense and if there is a repeated history of violations.
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. Any type of replica firearm is also prohibited in carry-on baggage and must be transported in checked luggage.
At the airport, during check-in, a passenger must go to the airline ticket counter to declare the firearm, ammunition, and any firearm parts. Before traveling, passengers are encouraged to check gun laws and regulations at their destination to ensure they are in compliance with local and state laws. TSA also recommends travelers check with their airline before their flight to ensure they comply with any airline-specific requirements.
TSA has additional traveler information specifically related to the transportation of firearms and ammunition. A full summary of TSA’s civil penalties for prohibited items is also available.
TSA reminds passengers to be aware of the contents of their carry-on bags before coming to the security checkpoint. TSA has multiple resources available to passengers to help them determine whether an item is permitted in carry-on baggage, checked baggage, or not at all.