The Columbus Dispatch

Record number of guns found in US airports in ’21

- Hugo Martín

LOS ANGELES – Even as air travel languished below pre-pandemic levels, the number of travelers attempting to pass through airport security checkpoint­s with firearms in 2021 reached its highest point since the Transporta­tion Security Administra­tion began tracking it 20 years ago, the agency said Wednesday.

The TSA stopped travelers carrying more than 5,700 firearms at U.S. airports in 2021, far surpassing the previous record of 4,432 firearms in 2019, according to TSA spokespers­on R. Carter Langston. A final tally will be announced this month.

About 85% of the firearms found in 2021 were loaded, Langston said.

The surge in gun discoverie­s comes even though travel demand remains about 25% below the pre-pandemic pace of 2019, according to the U.S. Bureau of Transporta­tion Statistics.

The increase is probably tied to a jump in overall U.S. gun sales since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, said Langston, who cited a July 2020 report by the Brookings Institute, a Washington think tank.

In January and February 2020, the average number of daily gun sales in the U.S. was about 92,000, the study said. After then-president Donald Trump declared a national emergency on March 13, daily gun sales jumped to more than 120,000 a day, peaking at 176,000 on March16. In total, nearly 3 million more guns were sold between March and July 2020 than would have ordinarily been sold during those months, Brookings reported.

“It’s a trend with guns in America and now we are seeing more guns at airports,” Langston said.

Gun laws vary by state, but federal law prohibits airline passengers from bringing firearms, weapons, explosives or any replicas or movie props into the cabin of a plane. Unloaded firearms may be transporte­d but only if they are declared to the airlines and locked in checked luggage.

Violators face fines of up to $13,910 per violation per person, depending on the number of previous offenses and whether the firearm was loaded at the time.

The airports with the greatest number of uncovered firearms this year are Hartsfield-jackson Atlanta Internatio­nal Airport, Dallas-fort Worth Internatio­nal Airport and George Bush Interconti­nental Airport in Houston, according to the TSA.

 ?? PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES/TNS ?? The TSA stopped travelers carrying more than 5,700 firearms at U.S. airports in 2021.
PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES/TNS The TSA stopped travelers carrying more than 5,700 firearms at U.S. airports in 2021.

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