Americans are apparently flying more than ever — and they’re packing heat. At record numbers.
Two Florida airports managed to rank in the Top 10 of nearly 250 U.S. airports where firearms were discovered in carry-on bags last year.
▪ Orlando International Airport ranked No. 5 with 123 guns packed into carry-on bags, 112 of the weapons loaded.
▪ Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, at No. 7, with 96 guns, 80 of them loaded.
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What part of it’s illegal (and dangerous) to pack a loaded gun in your carry-on bag aren’t we getting?
According to the Transportation Security Administration’s 2018 report, released Thursday, a record 4,239 total firearms were discovered in carry-on bags. That’s an average of nearly 12 firearms a day — representing a 7 percent increase over 2017.
And what’s more surprising, a record 3,656 of these found firearms — more than 86 percent of them — were found loaded.
TSA rules concerning firearms and ammunition maintain that only unloaded firearms can be brought onto a plane but they must be in a locked hard-sided container as checked baggage and must be declared to a TSA agent before boarding. There are also numerous statutes on carrying concealed weapons in Florida.
The TSA can impose civil penalties up to $13,333 per violation, and improperly bringing a gun into an airport can also lead to an arrest.
Sometimes it’s not just regular passengers who flub the rules.
In October, a pilot from Sun Country Airlines was arrested at a Florida airport after TSA officials found a loaded gun in his carry-on suitcase. The pilot, Brian Andrew Machtemes, who lives in Minnesota, was arrested at Southwest Florida International Airport.
The most firearms discovered in a month — a record 32 — were found in August at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. That airport also ranked No. 1 among the Top 10 with 298 discovered in 2018 — an increase of 53 compared to 2017 — and 253 of them were loaded. The Atlanta airport was No. 1 in 2017, too, with 245 discoveries.
The TSA maintained a bit of a sense of humor in its summary suggestion:
“Anything resembling an explosive item is prohibited in carry-on and checked bags. If you are not sure if an item is allowed in your bag, check out our What Can I Bring tool, snap a photo and Tweet [at @AskTSA] or Facebook Message us. Call us at 866-289-9673 or shoot us an email (pun intended).”
A total of nearly 814 million passengers and crew members passed through TSA screening in 2018, which is a 5.5 percent increase over 2017.