TSA reports record number of gun siezures in 2021

AP Photo/Michael Dwyer

The TSA has never caught a terrorist. They might have hired a few, but they’ve never caught one.

Supporters of the agency will probably tell you that they haven’t caught one because terrorists fear being caught, so they plan other attacks.

Yes, that’s from both TSA supporters.

However, TSA may not catch terrorists, but they do catch people trying to transport guns onto planes, and apparently, that hit a record number last year even as fewer people were flying.

Many things, including air travel, slowed significantly during the pandemic — but not irresponsible travelers taking guns to airports.

In 2021, the Transportation Security Administration caught 5,972 firearms at airport checkpoints, the most ever. That’s an increase of more than one-third over the 4,432 guns found in 2019, the next highest year and just before the coronavirus ravaged the world. The number of firearms found has soared by more than six times since 2008.

The increase in guns is particularly stark when compared with the decreasing number of passengers.

In 2019, the TSA said it found one firearm for every 197,358 passengers. In 2021, that rate doubled to one firearm detected for every 97,999 passengers.

This “status quo is simply unacceptable,” said Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-N.J.), chairwoman of the House Homeland Security subcommittee on transportation and maritime security, which has explored ways to reduce the numbers of guns being seized at airports.

The reason the number of guns rose as airline passenger traffic fell isn’t clear. Higher gun sales might be a contributing factor. So might the changing nature of passengers during the pandemic. As airlines dropped ticket prices to attract customers, this theory reckons, more passengers who ordinarily don’t fly took to the skies, even as business and frequent fliers stayed home.

“They aren’t as familiar with the rules, nor are they accustomed to checking for prohibited items before going to the airport,” Jeffrey C. Price, an aerospace professor at Metropolitan State University of Denver, said in an email. “That’s the most common rationale given for the increase.”

And that’s certainly part of it. Especially since the media spends a lot of time talking about the threats and how “virtually unregulated” guns are, so they simply think they can take a gun on a plane.

Another part is that people are just straight out worried, so they’re not thinking quite as clearly. They’re scared that when they fly into Philadelphia or Chicago or wherever they’re going, they’ll be mugged right outside the airport.

Which actually might happen, if we’re being honest.

So, they throw their handgun in their bag and head to the airport.

Or, they forget they left that particular firearm in the bag from their last trip, which I don’t see how, but I’ve been assured that it happens. I guess if you have a travel gun that you don’t really do much with unless you’re on the road, it could happen.

Regardless, though, this doesn’t look good for gun owners. It makes us look terribly irresponsible, and we need to do something about it.

When you find a new gun owner, ask them if they’re familiar with all the laws governing both the use and transportation of firearms. If not, help them find them, including how to fly with a firearm properly.

Ultimately, you’ll be doing yourself a favor.