Travel

More loaded guns are being found in carry-ons — especially at these Florida airports

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) released its year in review 2018 report on Feb. 7, 2019.
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) released its year in review 2018 report on Feb. 7, 2019. TSA

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.

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.

TSA fireworks.jpg
A sample of some prohibited items the TSA discovered at U.S. airports in 2018 included fireworks in a carry-on bag of a passenger at Orlando International Airport on Dec. 13, 2018. Five replica mortar shells were also discovered in the checked bag of an Orlando International Airport passenger on Dec. 1. TSA

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.

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Miami Herald Real Time/Breaking News reporter Howard Cohen, a 2017 Media Excellence Awards winner, has covered pop music, theater, health and fitness, obituaries, municipal government and general assignment. He started his career in the Features department at the Miami Herald in 1991.
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