Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officers confiscated more than 5,700 firearms at airport security checkpoints this year, the most in the agency's 20-year history.
More than 85% of the firearms that were stopped at checkpoints across the nation were loaded, according to the TSA.
If passengers are caught with a firearm at checkpoints, they can be fined upward of $13,900, according to the agency. Additionally, if a passenger is a TSA PreCheck member, their membership benefits can be suspended.
The agency said in certain cases, authorities will arrest the passenger for being in possession of a firearm at a security checkpoint.
Passengers are allowed to "transport unloaded firearms in a locked hard-sided container as checked baggage only," according to the TSA.
However, even with such penalties, the TSA announced several incidents involving firearms this month alone. This includes attempting to bring a gun through security or attempting to conceal them in checked luggage.
Just this week, a Pennsylvania man was arrested after officers detected a handgun and ammunition concealed inside his checked baggage at Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey. According to the TSA, the gun was found taped and wrapped in an ace bandage while the bullets were hidden inside a hollowed-out bar of soap.
Earlier this month, a passenger was cited after officers at Norfolk International Airport in Virginia caught him with a loaded 9mm handgun that was at a checkpoint. Authorities also confiscated the gun, according to the TSA.
Meanwhile, officers at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport came across 177 firearms at security checkpoints this month.
According to the TSA, the problem continues to "trend higher."
For instance, officers discovered approximately 10 firearms per million passengers in 2020. However, in 2019, they found about five firearms per million passengers.
According to the TSA, firearms must be properly packed in checked baggage and declared to the airline.
"Passengers are allowed to travel with their firearms and ammunition as long as they follow the proper procedures," said Jerry Agnew, the TSA’s federal security director for Arizona. "Travelers should never bring a gun—loaded or unloaded—to a security checkpoint because they are not permitted to be carried into the cabin of a plane."
Since firearm possession laws vary by state and locality, passengers are encouraged to "do their homework to make sure that they are not violating any local firearm laws" and contact their airline to make sure there aren't additional requirements to be wary of, the TSA said.