• A record 4,432 firearms were seized in 2019
  • It is illegal to take firearms aboard a plane in carry-on baggage but they can be legally stowed in checked luggage
  • Fines for trying to take a gun aboard a plane start at $2,500

The number of firearms confiscated at airports by the Transportation Security Administration tripled in July compared to a year ago even though air travel is a quarter of what it was last year at this time, the TSA reported Monday.

TSA said its officers had detected 15.3 guns per million passengers last month compared with 5.1 guns last July – and that’s with air travel dropping 75% year on year.

“TSA is diligently working to ensure our employees and passengers are safe and secure while traveling during a pandemic, and yet we are noticing a significant increase in loaded firearms coming into checkpoints,” TSA Administrator David Pekoske said in a press release.

Pekoske said 80% of the confiscated weapons last month were loaded.

Travelers can be fined at least $2,500 for trying to take an unloaded weapon aboard a flight and $4,100 for a loaded gun up to a maximum $10,250 per violation. It’s legal to bring a firearm in checked baggage as long as it is unloaded, properly stowed and declared at check-in.

Last year, the TSA seized 4,432 firearms from carry-on bags at airport checkpoints, an average of 12.1 firearms a day and up from the 4,239 seized in 2018.

Last year, the most guns were confiscated at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport where 323 guns were seized, followed by Dallas/Fort Worth with 217, Denver International with 140, George Bush Intercontinental in Houston with 138, and Phoenix Sky Harbor International with 132.

The number of seized firearms has grown steadily since 2008 when 926 were impounded.

Aviation expert Sheldon Jacobson told Slate earlier this year the number of seizures is not necessarily alarming.

“Although it sounds very sensational, in reality these firearm detections may be more benign than people realize,” Jacobson said.

“I would just question, ‘Is there any nefarious intent with these guns?’ And no evidence has suggested that there is,” he said.