Responsible owners don’t carry guns in airports
It’s travel season.
It’s likely I didn’t need to tell you that, especially considering all the recent news reports about the onslaught of horrible travel delays affecting so many Americans this holiday season. I’ve personally heard some of those stories, including two friends who told me about unrelated trips they planned for the holidays in which their scheduled flights were delayed or canceled. In both cases, the only good news was that each got to stay home, rather than wasting Christmas Day curled up in uncomfortable seats inside the airport.
But I digress. It’s not my intention today to write about that bad travel situation.
Rather, this is about another foolish traveler situation that the Transportation Security Administration, or TSA, reports is becoming an increasing problem — that is, the increasing number of travelers that have been caught attempting to pass through airport security carrying firearms.
The Associated Press in recent weeks reported that TSA officers located 6,301 firearms in carry-on bags in 2022, surpassing the previous record of 5,972 detected in 2021. The numbers have been increasing steadily over the last decade. In 2012, by comparison, 1,549 firearms were detected at security checkpoints.
And 88 percent of the guns found this year were loaded, the TSA said. Frankly, that detail doesn’t surprise me. I suspect most Americans who choose to carry a concealed weapon would also choose to keep it loaded. In many locations in Ohio and elsewhere around the nation, that’s completely legal, according to the Second Amendment to our Constitution.
But, of course, there are limits to where firearms — particularly loaded weapons — can be carried legally. For obvious reasons, the airport is not among them.
The growing number of violations, however, has led the TSA to step up efforts to curtail the trend.
The agency announced it will raise maximum fine of $13,910 to $14,950.
Additionally, travelers caught with a firearm in a carry-on bag will lose their “Precheck” eligibility for at least five years. Passengers also may be arrested for a firearms violation depending on the state or local laws in the airport’s location.
Of course, when the TSA finds a gun, it generally checks to see if it was stolen or involved in a previous crime. The agency also may confiscate the gun.
Congress debated the growing problem and the proposed new penalties during 2022 hearings. Some lawmakers and airport administrators called for higher fines, gun safety classes for violators and other measures. They said the maximum fines were rarely imposed and clearly weren’t working as a deterrent.
But other lawmakers said most of the passengers who get caught simply forgot they were carrying a gun, and higher fines won’t stop that problem.
The whole scenario makes me wonder how many of those people carrying the 6,301 firearms in their carry-on luggage last year did it intentionally, either believing for whatever reason that it was a legal act or believing they could somehow slip by security cameras that scan every single piece of baggage and attire — all the way down to your shoes — as you pass through checkpoints heading toward boarding gates.
Either way, such attempts would be, well, foolish.
Among those intentionally trying to pass security in possession of a firearm, I suspect some had nothing nefarious intended. I suspect some did.
I also wonder how many of those people might have left the weapon unintentionally in a bag and honestly forgot it was there.
Firearm possession laws vary by location, but if you have a gun and you are planning to travel, here is something you should know: Guns never are allowed in carry-on bags at any airport security checkpoint, even if a passenger has a concealed-carry weapon permit. Passengers transporting firearms must do so in a locked case in checked baggage. They also must declare them to the airline, according to the TSA.
One thing is for certain. No responsible gun owner ever should somehow “forget” he or she left a loaded gun in a bag that is heading toward airport security.