Several times every day, at airports across the country, passengers are trying to walk through security with guns in their carry-on bags, purses or pockets, even in a boot. And it's happening a lot more often.
In the first six months of this year, Transportation Security Administration screeners found 894 guns on passengers or in their carry-on bags, a 30 percent increase over the same period last year. The TSA set a record in May for the most guns seized in one week - 65 in all, 45 of them loaded and 15 with bullets in the chamber and ready to be fired. That was 30 percent more than the previous record of 50 guns, set just two weeks earlier.
Last year TSA found 1,549 firearms on passengers attempting to go through screening, up 17 percent from the year before.
In response to a request from The Associated Press, the agency provided figures on the number of firearm incidents in 2011 and 2012 for all U.S. airports, as well as the number of passengers screened at each airport. The AP analyzed the data, as well as weekly blog reports from the agency on intercepted guns from this year and last year.
Some of the details of guns discovered during airport security checks are just stunning:
- "As one passenger took off his jacket to go through screening in Sacramento, Calif., last year, TSA officers noticed he was wearing a shoulder holster, and in it was a loaded 9 mm pistol. The same passenger was found to have three more loaded pistols, 192 rounds of ammunition, two magazines and three knives."
- "Screeners elsewhere found a .45-caliber pistol and magazine hidden inside a cassette deck. Another .45-caliber pistol loaded with seven rounds, including a round in the chamber, was hidden under the lining of a carry-on bag in Charlotte, N.C. A passenger in Allentown, Pa., was carrying a pistol designed to look like a writing pen. At first the passenger said it was just a pen, but later acknowledged it was a gun, according to TSA."
- "A passenger in March at Bradley Hartford International Airport in Connecticut had a loaded .38-caliber pistol containing eight rounds strapped to his lower left leg. At Salt Lake City International Airport, a gun was found inside a passenger's boot strapped to a prosthetic leg."
- "Eighty-five percent of the guns intercepted last year were loaded. The most common type of gun was a .38-caliber pistol."
- "Airports in the South and the West, where the American gun culture is strongest, had the greatest number of guns intercepted, according to TSA data."
Is your nearest airport on the list of those with the most guns?
12 Airports with the most guns in 2012:
"Dallas-Fort Worth International, 80 guns; George Bush Intercontinental in Houston, 52; Dallas Love Field, 37; William P. Hobby in Houston, 35, and Austin-Bergstrom International, 33. Hartsfield-Jackson in Atlanta had the most for any airport, at 96. Others include Phoenix Sky Harbor, 54; Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International in Florida, 42; Denver International, 39; Seattle-Tacoma International, 37; Orlando International Airport in Florida, 36, and Tampa International in Florida, 33."
In comparison, JFK International Airport in New York, where TSA agents screened nearly 27 million passengers last year, there was just one passenger found to have a gun.
Well, they don't call them "gun nuts" for nothing.