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TSA confiscated nearly 4,000 guns at airport checkpoints in 2017; Denver had fourth most

By: Dana Hedgpeth, The Washington Post
January 30, 2018 Updated: January 30, 2018 at 12:11 pm
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Some of the 3,957 guns discovered in carry-on bags at airport security checkpoints around the country by the TSA. MUST CREDIT: TSA

There was a realistic-looking replica of a suicide vest found in a checked bag at an airport in El Paso. A block of inert explosives was discovered in a carry-on bag at an airport in Florida. Hand grenades were confiscated from luggage at airports all over the country.

These, along with 3,957 firearms, were among the items discovered agents with the Transportation Security Administration discovered at airport security checkpoints in 2017.

In its "TSA Year in Review" report, the agency said a "record-setting" number of firearms were found in carry-on bags. With nearly 4,000 firearms for the year, that translates to about 10 firearms a day.

That's up roughly 17 percent from 2016, when 3,391 firearms were found at checkpoints, TSA said. And the number of firearms found has risen steadily since TSA began tracking the number in 2005, when 660 firearms were found.

According to the agency 2 million travelers a day went through security check points last year and a total of 771.5 million passengers were screened.

TSA said nearly 35 percent of the firearms found had a round in the chamber. And "the most firearms discovered in one-month - a whopping 31″ were found in August at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, according to the report.

Below are the top 10 airports where firearms were found and the number loaded with ammunition.

1. Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International: 245, 222 loaded.

2. Dallas/Fort Worth International: 211, 165 loaded.

3. George Bush Intercontinental - Houston: 142, 124 loaded.

4. Denver International: 118, 102 loaded.

5. Phoenix Sky Harbor International: 115, 109 loaded.

6. Tampa International: 97, 90 loaded.

7. Orlando International: 94, 82 loaded.

8. Dallas Love Field: 93, 81 loaded.

9. Nashville International: 89, 71 loaded.

10. Seattle-Tacoma International: 75, 60 loaded.

It wasn't just guns. Passengers also tried to board with numerous other hazardous items.

A passenger was found with a live flashbang grenade in a carry-on bag at the San Diego International Airport. In Raleigh, a live smoke grenade was also found in a carry-on bag.

"Not only do smoke grenades deploy a thick blanket of smoke, they also burn extremely hot and are considered hazmat," TSA said in a statement.

A knife hidden in a comb, another weapon in a deodorant bottle and a knife in a lipstick tube were among the items TSA screeners found in bags at security checkpoints around the country. MUST CREDIT: TSA
A knife hidden in a comb, another weapon in a deodorant bottle and a knife in a lipstick tube were among the items TSA screeners found in bags at security checkpoints around the country. MUST CREDIT: TSA 

Another problem was many items appeared to be real but in fact weren't.

The suicide vest mentioned earlier is one example. The traveler, officials said, worked as a contractor dealing with explosive ordnance disposal, and the items were used as training aids. In another case, a military instructor said he "forgot" his carry-on bag contained inert explosives.

Officials advised that if your line of work necessitates the use of such devices, "plan ahead and find another way to transport" the training items.

When seen on the X-ray monitor, TSA said, "we don't know if they're real, toys, or replicas until TSA explosives experts are called upon."

And even inert grenades can cause terminals and checkpoints to close, meaning delays or canceled flights.

TSA said it found nearly 200 items that are prohibited and were "deliberately hidden in attempts to sneak them through security." The agency calls this "artful concealment" and warned travelers risk fines or arrest in such cases. At the very least, you'll be delayed.

In one case, a sword cane was found in a traveler's items at George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston. A knife was found hidden inside a stick of deodorant in a carry-on bag at the Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks, Connecticut. And a knife was found in a tube of lipstick in a carry-on bag at Tulsa International Airport.

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