TSA Sets Another Record Nationally For Firearm Discoveries in 2022

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) announced this week that its security screening officers at airports in Central Texas Area detected 154 firearms in travelers’ carry-on luggage in 2022. Every one of these firearms was discovered during the routine X-ray screening of carry-on property at the security checkpoint. Nationwide last year, TSA officers found 6,542 firearms at 262 different airports.

TSA continues to set new records annually for the number of firearms discovered in carry-on bags, airports in Central Texas are no exception. Below is a summary of TSA firearm discoveries at Austin-Bergstrom Intercontinental Airport (AUS), Waco Regional Airport (ACT), Killeen Fort Hood Regional Airport (GRK) and nationally for the past five years:

Airport 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022
Austin-Bergstrom Intercontinental Airport (AUS) 93 78 49 110 150
Waco Regional Airport (ACT) 2 0 2 5 2
Killeen Fort Hood Regional Airport (GRK) 1 2 2 1 2
East Texas totals: 96 80 53 116 154
National totals: 4,239 4,432 3,257 5,972 6,542

The five U.S. airports with the most TSA firearm discoveries are Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, which topped the list with 448 firearm finds, the most ever recorded at any airport since the inception of TSA. Dallas Fort Worth International Airport came in second with 385 followed by Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport with 298; Nashville International Airport with 213 and Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport with 196. Orlando International Airport; Denver International Airport; Austin-Bergstrom International Airport; Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport and Tampa International Airport round out the Top 10.

In 2022, TSA screened approximately 761 million passengers and crew at airports nationwide. TSA officers across the country discovered firearms in carry-on luggage at a rate of 8.6 firearms per million passengers screened. Stated another way, TSA detected one firearm for every 116,394 travelers screened.

Below is a table summarizing the number of travelers screened for every firearm discovery at Central Texas security checkpoints last year.

  Number of travelers screened in 2022 Number of travelers screened
per firearm find
Austin-Bergstrom Intercontinental Airport (AUS) 9,609,563 64,063
Waco Regional Airport (ACT) 57,570 28,785
Killeen Fort Hood Regional Airport (GRK) 115,269 57,634
Central Texas Airports 9,782,402 63,522

When a TSA officers sees the image of a firearm on the X-ray screen, TSA immediately notifies the local airport law enforcement agency, which responds to the security checkpoint. Law enforcement removes the firearm from the X-ray tunnel and makes contact with the traveler. What happens to the firearm and the traveler is up to discretion of airport law enforcement.

In addition to potential criminal citations for bringing a firearm in carry-on luggage, TSA can levy a civil penalty again the traveler. Among the factors TSA considers when determining the civil penalty amount include whether the firearm was loaded and whether there was accessible ammunition. Even if a traveler has a concealed weapons permit, firearms are not permitted in carry-on luggage.

Individuals who violate rules regarding traveling with firearms will have Trusted Traveler status and TSA PreCheck® expedited screening benefits revoked for a period of time. The duration of the disqualification will depend upon the seriousness of the offense and if there is a repeated history of violations.

Firearms can be transported on a commercial aircraft only if they are unloaded, packed in a locked, hard-sided case and placed in checked baggage. Any type of replica firearm is also prohibited in carry-on baggage and must be transported in checked luggage.

At the airport during the check-in process, a passenger needs to go to the airline ticket counter to declare the firearm, ammunition and any firearm parts. Prior to traveling, passengers are encouraged to check gun laws and regulations at their destination to ensure they are in compliance with local and state laws. TSA also recommends travelers check with their airline prior to their flight to ensure they comply with any airline-specific requirements.

TSA has additional traveler information specifically related to the transportation of firearms and ammunition. A full summary of TSA’s civil penalties for prohibited items is also available.

TSA reminds passengers to be aware of the contents of their carry-on bag prior to coming to the security checkpoint. TSA has multiple resources available to passengers to help them determine whether an item is permitted in carry-on baggage, checked baggage or not at all.

Travelers can use the “Can I Bring?” feature on the TSA website or on the TSA mobile app, myTSA. Travelers can also Tweet or Message “@AskTSA” if they have a travel question or are unsure if an item is allowed through security in a carry-on bag. Just snap a picture or send a question and get real-time assistance daily from 5 a.m. to 3 p.m. PST.