On October 13, 2021, The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) reported that the first nine months of 2021 has seen a record number of passengers bringing firearms to the airport, setting a 20-year high. 

The report stated that, as of October 3, 2021, TSA officers had stopped 4,495 airline passengers from carrying firearms on flights, surpassing the previous record of 4,432 firearms caught at checkpoints in 2019 when a greater number of people were traveling.

In the statement, TSA Administrator David Pekoske said: “The number of firearms that our TSA officers are stopping at airport checkpoints is alarming.”

He continued: “Firearms, particularly loaded firearms, introduce an unnecessary risk at checkpoints, have no place in the passenger cabin of an airplane, and represent a very costly mistake for the passengers who attempt to board a flight with them.”

TSA report

In an interview with US media, Pekoske explained the surge in passengers traveling with firearms. “I think more people are carrying weapons, just generally across the country, and then whatever is happening across the country we see reflected in our checkpoints." 

He added: "As a passenger, I don't want another passenger flying with me with a gun in their possession.” 

Taking firearms as carry-on to an airport can be costly. The penalties for attempting to bring a firearm through a checkpoint start at approximately $2,500 for an unloaded weapon and can range up to $10,000 for a loaded weapon. The full and updated list of penalties can be checked here

TSA states that it is legal to travel with firearms provided that they are in checked baggage when they are unloaded, and packed in a locked, hard-sided case. The passenger must then declare and present the case with the firearm at the airline check-in counter and inform the airline representative of their intention to travel with the firearms. 

Firearms are transported with checked baggage and are placed in the cargo hold of the aircraft.

As travel is expected to peak during Thanksgiving and the holiday season, a full guide of how to properly and legally travel with firearms has been released by TSA, along with a print-friendly version guide.  

A video demonstration by TSA is also available: