PITTSBURGH — So far this year, the Transportation Security Administration has stopped 33 guns from getting through the checkpoint at the Pittsburgh International Airport. That’s up from 26 in 2022.
“In the year 2023, we’re 22 years after the Patriot Act, so that’s a little concerning that people are trying to bring guns through TSA,” said Ryan Tarkington, who was traveling home to Pittsburgh after landing at the airport.
TSA is on track for setting a new record this year. By the end of September, TSA said agents caught 5,072 guns at airport security checkpoints nationwide compared to 6,542 guns for the entire year in 2022.
“That’s really not the record we want to set,” said TSA spokesperson Lisa Farbstein. “We see more guns year after year after year. Every year, we’re setting new records and it’s not just by a little. It’s by hundreds and hundreds more every single year. More passengers are flying and more people own firearms.”
Airport travelers are finding those numbers surprising.
“At this point, people should know you’re not allowed to bring a gun, or knife, or any weapon on a plane, so I’m surprised the number they’re catching is growing,” said Christine Cleary of Butler.
While travelers can pack a knife in a checked bag, there are more strict rules for guns. Farbstein said that the weapon has to be unloaded and in a hard-sided, locked case.
“You have to definitely pack it properly and safely,” she said. “Then, you take that unloaded firearm in that locked, hard-sided case and take it to your airline’s check-in counter, declare you want to fly with it, and they’re going to make sure it is transported in the belly of the plane, so you have it at your destination.”
When travelers go through security, they’re reminded by messaging on large signs that firearms are not allowed. The TSA, however, said the most common excuse they hear is, “I forgot I had my gun with me.” That mistake could cost you. A traveler could be fined nearly $15,000 if the gun is loaded.
“I’ve been a frequent flyer for the last few years, and I’m generally happy with the TSA process and definitely appreciate all their precautions,” Tarkington said.
The TSA says nothing is ever foolproof, but the agency is confident agents are catching a vast majority of the guns that come through the belt.
“I give them credit,” Cleary said. “They make our skies safe.”
If you’re packing at the last minute, or at 1 a.m. and have a question about what you can bring in your carry-on bag, you can text “Travel” to AskTSA (275-872) and they’ll get back to you immediately. It’s something new the agency started this year.
Travelers with questions can also download the free “myTSA” app or ask on X or Facebook Messenger at @AskTSA.
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