WASHINGTON (AP) — The federal agency tasked with screening passengers before boarding planes says agents this year stopped a record number of weapons brought in by passengers trying to get through airport security checkpoints.
The Transportation Security Administration said in a news release Friday that officers have seized 6,301 firearms so far this year, and the agency anticipates that number will rise to 6,600 by the end of the year. That’s almost a 10% increase from last year, which was already a record, the agency said. Nearly 90% of the weapons seized so far were loaded, the agency said. The agency considers a weapon to be loaded if the passenger has access to both the weapon and ammunition.
In response, the agency said it is increasing the maximum civil penalty for firearms violations to $14,950. Passengers caught with a weapon also lose their TSA PreCheck status, a security program that allows passengers who go through pre-screening to bypass some airport security measures, such as removing their shoes, for at least five years, the agency said. .
“Firearms are prohibited in hand luggage at the checkpoint and on board the aircraft. When a passenger brings a firearm into the checkpoint, this consumes significant security resources and poses a potential threat to transportation security, as well as being very costly for the passenger,” said TSA Administrator David Pekoske, in the press release.
With the exception of 2020, when the coronavirus pandemic caused air traffic to plummet, the number of weapons intercepted at airport checkpoints has risen steadily every year since 2010, the agency said.
People caught with weapons in their carry-on luggage may also face criminal charges depending on the state in which they live, the agency said.
The agency’s website lists a number of incidents around the country in which screening officers have discovered weapons going through X-ray machines. Weapons are allowed on planes, but only as checked baggage and must be declared to the airlines.
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