TSA detects 6,737 firearms at airport checkpoints in 2023

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During 2023, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) intercepted a total of 6,737 firearms at airport security checkpoints. Disturbingly, 93% of the firearms intercepted before they got aboard an aircraft were loaded.

One critical aspect of the US aviation security framework is the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), a key player in averting potential threats.

In 2023, the TSA faced a significant challenge as it intercepted a record-breaking number of firearms at airport security checkpoints throughout the year, surpassing the previous record and marking the highest one-year total in the agency’s history.

Loaded Risks


A staggering 93% of the intercepted firearms were loaded, introducing an unnecessary peril to both passengers and TSA personnel.

This concerning statistic highlights the crucial need for enhanced awareness and adherence to regulations.

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A crowd of passengers at the security area in Denver International Airport.
Famartin, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Historical Context

The 2023 record-breaking figure outpaced the previous year’s total of 6,542 firearms. TSA Administrator David Pekoske expressed his concern, stating,

“We are still seeing far too many firearms at TSA checkpoints,” emphasizing the pressing need for vigilance in adhering to security protocols.

TSA Protocols and Passenger Responsibilities


Prohibited Items

Firearms and ammunition hold a strict prohibition in carry-on baggage, underlining the importance of passengers being well-informed about what items are permissible.

Proper Packing

Passengers are allowed to travel with an unloaded firearm, provided it is securely packed in a locked, hard-sided case within their checked baggage.

It is imperative for travelers to declare the firearm at the check-in counter.

Passenger Screening


Statistical Shift

Despite the record-breaking number of interceptions, TSA’s screening efficiency is evident in the data.

In 2023, with over 858 million individuals screened, the agency intercepted 7.8 firearms per million passengers, showcasing a decrease from 8.6 per million passengers in the preceding year.

Daily Vigilance

The fourth quarter of 2023 witnessed Transportation Security Officers (TSOs) averting an average of 18 firearms daily at TSA checkpoints, with nearly 93% of them being loaded.

This daily vigilance set amid the relatively high numbers of discoveries underscores the persistent efforts to maintain a secure air travel environment.

Response to Security Breaches


Upon detecting a firearm at a security checkpoint, TSOs promptly collaborate with local law enforcement.

This partnership ensures the swift removal of the passenger and the firearm from the checkpoint area, complying with local laws and regulations.

Consequences for Violations

Apart from potential legal action, TSA imposes fines on passengers violating firearm regulations, with civil penalties reaching up to approximately $15,000.

Additionally, such incidents lead to the revocation of TSA PreCheck® eligibility for at least five years, emphasizing the severity of non-compliance.

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