TSA Catching Twice As Many Guns At Airport Checkpoints

The TSA reports an alarming number of airline passengers who are trying to board planes with loaded guns. It's a problem at Pittsburgh International and airports across the country; KDKA's Paul Martino reports.

Video Transcript

- New at 5:30, the TSA reports an alarming number of airline passengers trying to board planes with loaded guns. It's a problem at Pittsburgh International and airports across the country.

- Paul Martino is live at the airport. Paul, interesting this is happening despite the pandemic.

PAUL MARTINO: Yeah, Ken, despite the pandemic, this is actually a bigger problem. There are, in fact, fewer passengers, but the TSA tells me that on a percentage basis, more people are trying to get guns through checkpoints. Now, to be clear, you can bring a gun here, you can safely pack it and check it to bring it on the flight. You cannot bring a gun into the cabin.

Some passengers are toting some extra weight in their carry ons at Pittsburgh International, loaded guns. These are just a few of the weapons seized at TSA checkpoints here.

LISA FARBSTEIN: We are seeing this trend not just in Pittsburgh, but this is a national trend that we're seeing. Even though there are significantly fewer travelers out there, the rate of guns is higher.

PAUL MARTINO: TSA spokeswoman, Lisa Farbstein, says it's an alarming trend. She's not sure why it's happening.

LISA FARBSTEIN: The vast majority of those people who are flying with or want to fly with their guns are showing up at checkpoints with loaded guns. So people are telling us they forgot they have a loaded gun with them. Like, really? It is almost unbelievable.

PAUL MARTINO: Consider these gun stats from the TSA. In 2017 at Pittsburgh International, they confiscated 32 guns, 2018, 34, next year 35, then in 2020, a year when very few people flew, 21 guns. And just in 3 and 1/2 months this year, they've already seized 11.

LISA FARBSTEIN: Even if you have a concealed carry permit, you are not allowed to bring the gun on the plane. It's pretty common sense, pretty much common sense.

PAUL MARTINO: Here's another stat. In 2019, the year before the pandemic, the TSA estimates they found five guns per one million passengers. Last year, it was double the rate, 10 guns per million. When they find them, TSA shuts down the checkpoint and waits for police. It's a big inconvenience for other passengers.

LISA FARBSTEIN: We leave the carry on bag in the X-ray machine. We do not want our TSA officers handling firearms. So that's just going to be an accident waiting to happen.

PAUL MARTINO: So what happens to these gun toting passengers? Well, generally speaking, if you have a license to carry, police are not inclined to charge you. But the TSA will fine you, and they're huge fines, a first offense could draw a fine between $4,000 and $12,000. Much better to properly pack your gun and check it before boarding. Reporting live from Pittsburgh International, Paul Martino, KDKA News.