The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) reported yesterday that it had discovered eight loaded guns at security gates in Tennessee airports. The firearms were found in passengers’ hand luggage at every major airport in the state. All were found in the space of just one week.
In a disturbing announcement, the TSA said that the eight loaded guns were discovered in hand luggage at Tennessee’s five major airports. In each case, the TSA officers informed local enforcement agents who removed the passengers and firearms from the security checkpoint areas. The incidents were as follows:
- Nashville International Airport (BNA): 9/14/20, a loaded SIG Sauer .380 caliber. 9/17/20, a loaded SIG Sauer .380 caliber and a loaded North American Arms Derringer .22 caliber. 9/18/20, a loaded Ruger 9mm
- Memphis International Airport (MEM): 9/18/20, a loaded Smith & Wesson 9mm.
- McGhee Tyson Airport (TYS): 9/20/20, a loaded Smith & Wesson .40 caliber.
- Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport (CHA): 9/18/20, a loaded Glock .380 caliber.
- Tri-Cities Airport (TRI): 9/17/20, a loaded Ruger 9mm.
The TSA press release states that security is their first concern. Carrying guns on a plane is dangerous for other passengers and may be seen as a deliberate attempt to take a prohibited item onto the aircraft.
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Guns are not uncommon at America’s airports
Despite fewer people flying during the coronavirus pandemic, TSA officers have found 106 guns at Tennessee airports in 2020 so far. A total of 139 were discovered in the state in 2019. Across the country, a staggering 4,432 firearms were found last year, 87% of which were loaded. TSA Federal Security Director for Tennessee, Steve Wood, said,
“Even with much lower than normal passenger numbers, we continue to find firearms at a very high rate at security checkpoints. Passengers must remember they’re responsible for the contents of bags, and our advice is they thoroughly inspect all personal belongings to make sure there are no illegal or prohibited items before coming to the airport.”
Firearms are not permitted in hand luggage. They must be declared to the airline, unloaded, locked in a proper hard-sided carrying case, packed separately from any ammunition, and transported in checked luggage. Passengers who attempt to take a gun through a security checkpoint can face civil penalties from the TSA and potential criminal charges.
High profile firearms incidents
The only passengers on a flight who are permitted to take a loaded weapon are Federal Air Marshals. The marshals are issued with handcuffs, an extendable baton, and a SIG Sauer P229 or P239. They are trained to tackle hijackers and other passengers who put the aircraft at risk.
However, some high-profile incidents have occurred that have made headlines. In February 2020, a bodyguard of former British Prime Minister David Cameron left a loaded gun in the toilet of a British Airway flight from New York JFK to London Heathrow. It was discovered by a passenger who reported the firearm to the crew.
In another incident last year, cleaners found a gun in the cockpit of a Delta Air Lines aircraft. Delta didn’t release specific details of the incident, but the TSA had apparently approved the weapon, and the public was never in harm’s way.
Are you shocked by the number of guns found at airports?