TSA Firearm Discoveries At Tennessee Airports Spike In 2021

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Transportation Security Administration officers at Tennessee airports discovered a total of 283 firearms in travelers’ carry-on luggage in 2021. Nashville International Airport (BNA) broke a statewide record with 163 guns found, a total higher than the sum of all Tennessee airports combined in 2020. Each of the firearms were discovered by TSA officers during the routine screening of carry-on property at airport security checkpoints.

Here is a breakdown of TSA firearm discoveries for the past four years at Tennessee airports:

Airport code

2018

2019

2020

2021

Nashville International Airport (BNA)

86

97

94

163

Memphis International Airport (MEM)

47

46

48

67

McGhee Tyson Airport (TYS)

16

26

7

21

Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport (CHA)

9

9

11

24

Tri-Cities Regional Airport (TRI)

4

3

2

8

Tennessee total:

162

181

162

283

National total:

4,239

4,432

3,257

5,972

 

In 2021, TSA screened approximately 585 million passengers and crew at airports nationwide. That figure represents an 81 percent increase over the approximately 324 million screened in 2020. 

Statewide in 2021, TSA screened approximately 10.7 million departing travelers at the five commercial Tennessee airports, an 88 percent increase over the total number screened in 2020. 

Nationwide, a firearm was detected for every 97,999 passengers screened. In Tennessee, the rate was more than 2.5 times higher than the national rate with one firearm discovered for every 37,799 passengers screened.

In addition to potential criminal citations, travelers face civil penalties for bringing firearms to the security checkpoint and TSA evaluates each firearm incident on a case-by-case basis. Among the factors TSA considers when determining the civil penalty amount includes whether the firearm was loaded and whether there was accessible ammunition. 

The civil penalty can go up to a maximum of $13,900 per violation. Even if a traveler has a concealed weapons permit, firearms are not permitted in carry-on luggage. 

In addition to civil penalties, 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 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.
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 weekdays from 8 a.m.-6 p.m.

Additional information:

Top 10 airports with guns caught by TSA at checkpoints in 2021

Rank

Airport (Code)

Total

1

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL)

507

2

Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW)

317

3

Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH)

245

4

Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX)

196

5

Nashville International Airport (BNA)

163

6

Denver International Airport (DEN)

141

7

Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL)

128

8

Orlando International Airport (MCO)

124

9

Louis Armstrong New Orleans International (MSY)

119

10

Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC)

115


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