4,239 Guns Seized & 2018 Most Unusual Finds at US Airports (Videos)

The 4,239 guns stopped at TSA checkpoints last year is a 7-percent increase over 2017. Ten airports accounted for nearly a third of all the cases. Atlanta had the most, with 298 firearms found in carry-on bags. (Courtesy of the TSA)

By the TSA

It has been a milestone year for TSA as 2018 was marked by a record number of travelers and significant security enhancements.

A total 813.8 million (813,791,287) passengers and crew members passed through TSA screening, with record-breaking screening numbers during the spring, Thanksgiving and summer travel periods.

That’s over 2 million travelers a day and a 5.5 percent increase compared to 2017. These efforts are a testament to the coordination and collaboration between our industry partners and the hardworking men and women of TSA.

One of TSA’s significant accomplishments in 2018 was our work – in partnership with airports, airlines, and international partners – to complete the rollout of stronger carry-on screening procedures.

(The scanners TSA uses to scan carry-ons at airport checkpoints are nearly a decade old. The future may be taking technology that revolutionized medicine and using it to give screeners a better view of what’s in your bag, which could mean more security and less time in line when you fly. Courtesy of CBS This Morning and YouTube. Posted on Mar 3, 2017.)

Even more noteworthy was the signing of H.R. 302, FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018, which includes the TSA Modernization Act, that marked the first ever reauthorization of TSA since the agency’s founding in 2001.

The reauthorization act empowers TSA to expand field operations and testing of advanced screening technologies, increase use of canine resources and enhance public area security.

(H.R. 302, a $90-billion, five-year FAA reauthorization bill, passed in the House of Representatives by a vote of 398 to 23 on Sept. 26. Courtesy of AOPALive and YouTube. Posted on Sep 28, 2018.)

In addition, TSA released both its first ever Cybersecurity Roadmap that improves protections against cyberattacks on our transportation system and the Biometrics Roadmap, which will enable testing of new technology at airports.

In coordination with our industry partners, we reached a significant milestone with the Known Crewmember® (KCM) program, clearing over 100 million crewmembers since its inception in 2011.

(The TSA hopes to improve airport security and speed up the screening process by introducing more biometric technology. Courtesy of newsy and YouTube. Posted on Oct 15, 2018.)

Throughout the year, TSA officers demonstrated great professionalism, dedication, integrity and remained committed to the mission to secure you – the traveling public.

Thanks to their vigilance and skills, TSA officers intercepted a record number of firearms in 2018.

  • A record setting 4,239 total firearms were discovered in carry-on bags at checkpoints across the country, averaging 81.6 firearms per week. That’s an average of 11.6 firearms per day.
  • 3,656 (86.15 percent) of the total firearms discovered were loaded – another record.
  • 1,432 (33.74 percent) of the total firearms discovered had a round chambered.
  • The most firearms discovered in one month – a record setting 32 – were discovered in August at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.
  • Firearms were intercepted at 249 of the 440 federalized airports.
  • That’s more than a 7 percent (282 more) increase in firearm discoveries from 2017’s total of 3,957.
Firearm tallies represent initial incident reporting to TSA’s Transportation Security Operations Center, and may be subject to change. (Courtesy of the TSA)
Firearm tallies represent initial incident reporting to TSA’s Transportation Security Operations Center, and may be subject to change. (Courtesy of the TSA)

Below are the top 10 airports that led in firearm discoveries in 2018:

  1. Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL): 298 – an increase of 53 compared to 2017 (253 loaded)
  2. Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW): 219 (193 loaded)
  3. Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX): 129 (120 loaded)
  4. Denver International Airport (DEN): 126 (95 loaded)
  5. Orlando International Airport (MCO): 123 (112 loaded)
  6. George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH): 117 – a decrease of 25 firearms compared to 2017 (115 loaded)
  7. Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL): 96 (80 loaded)
  8. Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (AUS): 93 (76 loaded)
  9. Dallas Love Field Airport (DAL): 89 (83 loaded)
  10. Nashville International Airport (BNA): 86 (80 loaded)
David Pekoske, TSA Administrator
“I’m just going to guess here; I think more people are just simply carrying weapons in the country and we reflect what we’re seeing around the country,” said TSA Administer David Pekoske, when asked why he thinks the numbers are increasing.

Firearm possession laws vary by state and locality. TSA may impose civil penalties of up to $13,333 per violation, per person for prohibited items violations and violations of other TSA regulations.

Repeat violations will result in higher penalties.

Travelers should familiarize themselves with state and local firearm laws for each point of travel prior to departure. Some airlines’ policies may differ from TSA’s.


  • When traveling, comply with laws concerning  the laws concerning possession of firearms as they vary by local, state and international governments.
  • If you are traveling internationally with a firearm in checked baggage, please check the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website for information and requirements prior to travel.
  • Declare each firearm each time you present it for transport as checked baggage. Ask your airline about limitations or fees that may apply.
  • Firearms must be unloaded and locked in a hard-sided container and transported as checked baggage only. Only the passenger should retain the key or combination to the lock unless TSA personnel request the key to open the firearm container to ensure compliance with TSA regulations.
  • Firearm parts, including magazines, clips, bolts and firing pins, are prohibited in carry-on baggage, but may be transported in checked baggage.
  • Replica firearms, including firearm replicas that are toys, may be transported in checked baggage only.
  • Rifle scopes are permitted in carry-on and checked baggage.

(Thinking of traveling with a firearm? Watch this short informative video to learn more! Courtesy of the TSA and YouTube)


Ammunition recovered at scene of 8/10/17 incident. (Image Credit: NYPD)

  • Ammunition is prohibited in carry-on baggage, but may be transported in checked baggage.
  • Firearm magazines and ammunition clips, whether loaded or empty, must be securely boxed or included within a hard-sided case containing an unloaded firearm. 
  • Read the requirements governing the transport of ammunition in checked baggage as defined by 49 CFR 175.10 (a)(8).
  • Small arms ammunition, including ammunition not exceeding .75 caliber and shotgun shells of any gauge, may be carried in the same hard-sided case as the firearm.

We strongly suggest travelers contact their airline for specific firearm and ammunition policies and check local laws related to the carrying and transport of firearms.

If you plan to travel with your firearm, make sure you know the rules for packing it in your checked baggage.

Courtesy of the TSA
Courtesy of the TSA

Along with all the firearms we discovered, pictured above is a sample of some of the other prohibited items that we discovered this year.

Starting at the top left and moving clockwise:

  • Three smoke grenades were discovered in a checked bag at Nashville International Airport on Nov. 19.
  • An inert grenade was detected in a carry-on bag at McCarran International Airport on Nov. 27.
  • A bottle of lighter fluid was discovered in a carry-on bag of a passenger traveling from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport on Dec. 12.
  • Fireworks were discovered in the carry-on bag of a passenger traveling from Orlando International Airport on Dec. 13.
  • Five replica mortar shells were discovered in the checked bag of an Orlando International Airport passenger on Dec. 1. We had to stop baggage screening operations until an explosives specialist could respond and declare the items safe.

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 or Facebook Message us, call us at (866) 289-9673 or shoot us an email (pun intended).

Courtesy of the TSA
Courtesy of the TSA

What’s worse than not knowing if an item is prohibited? Attempting to conceal a prohibited item can result in arrest and/or a civil penalty.

Above are just a few prohibited items discovered that were suspiciously packaged.

Starting at the top left and moving clockwise:

  • This bag looked suspicious to our Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport X-ray operator. During a bag check, scissors and a knife were found wrapped in tin foil behind the bag’s lining. Scissors with blades shorter than 4 inches, measured from the tip to the pivot point, are allowed in carry-on bags. Knives of any size and scissors with blades longer than 4 inches should be packed in your checked baggage.
  • The knife comb was discovered at Wichita Dwight D. Eisenhower National Airport on Nov. 21.
  • This knife, concealed inside a medicine bottle, was discovered at Springfield-Branson National Airport on Nov. 26.
  • A carbon dioxide powered semi-automatic pellet gun was discovered in a carry-on bag at Manchester-Boston Regional Airport on Dec. 6. The passenger had the firearm tucked into a static shielding bag as pictured on the bottom left. Airsoft guns, pellet guns and bb guns are prohibited in carry-on baggage.

(Every day, TSA officers discover a wide range of strange, weird and dangerous items. Here’s a collection of the most unusual prohibited items that were found in 2018. Courtesy of the TSA and YouTube. Posted on Feb 12, 2019.)

TSA screening procedures prevent prohibited items and other threats to transportation security from entering the sterile area of the airport.

The items highlighted above are just a small selection of what we find every day. Let this be a reminder to double check your belongings before going through security.

Courtesy of the TSA
Courtesy of the TSA

Want to know how many firearms we found in 2017? Check out our blog post.

And don’t forget to check out our top 10 most unusual finds videos for 2016 and 2017.

Stay tuned for 2018’s unusual finds.

Sadly, we also had to say goodbye this year to our beloved friend, colleague and a ‘dad humor’ specialist, Curtis “Blogger Bob” Burns.

Bob was the original author of this blog series and was instrumental in TSA winning three Webby Awards.

Curtis Robert Burns (Courtesy of the TSA)
Curtis Robert Burns (Courtesy of the TSA)

He is regarded as a pioneer influencer in government agencies adopting social media to engage the public and was greatly admired for his witty humor.

We miss him deeply.

Lastly, at airports across the nation, TSA employees were overwhelmed by the generous support shown to them during the recent lapse in federal funding.

We are grateful and thankful for the public support from industry, travelers, local businesses and communities, including those who provided hot meals, groceries, household goods and infant-care items to TSA employees.

To them and you, we say THANK YOU!

(For TSA workers not being paid during the government shutdown, lunch is on Aislynn. The kind teen brought Pizza Hut for furloughed employees. Courtesy of Radio.com and YouTube. Posted on Jan 18, 2019.)

With 2019 underway, the TSA men and women across the nation remain committed to securing transportation and serving you – the traveling public – to ensure that all travelers, here and abroad, get to their destinations safely.

Jay Wagner

TSA Blog Team

Original post https://www.tsa.gov/blog/2019/02/07/tsa-year-review-record-setting-2018

Editor’s note: We are very saddened to learn of Curtis “Blogger Bob” Burns passing. He was a respected and talented peer, and LinkedIn friend. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, and his greater TSA family as well. He will be missed.