More and more cases at airports in the USA
Vcovered in peanut butter, disguised as a ballpoint pen or hidden between face cream and shampoo bottles: during controls on Americans airports more firearms were found in hand luggage in 2022 than in any other year. As the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) recently reported, inspectors found more than 6,500 handguns that passengers tried to illegally take on board from January to December. In the previous year, almost 6,000 passengers were noticed on the X-ray scanner with a pistol or revolver. Almost nine out of ten guns discovered in 2022 were loaded.
Most passengers said they accidentally picked up the gun — like a 43-year-old Nantucket resident who was killed a few weeks ago on Jan Airport Logan had provoked a police operation in Boston (Massachusetts) with a 9mm pistol in his backpack. “That’s no excuse either. Anyone who has a firearm should know where it is at all times. That’s what makes a responsible gun owner,” said TSA spokesman Gerardo Spero. The Nantucket traveler therefore faces a subpoena, as does a Maryland passenger whom Spero and colleagues at the International Airport in Philadelphia (Pennsylvania) arrested after finding a gun and ammunition.
“The Southeast is a haven for weapons”
According to the Transportation Security Administration, the record number of guns in hand luggage is also due to the renewed desire to travel after the corona pandemic. When many passengers place their backpacks, bags and suitcases on the X-ray scanner belt, more weapons are often discovered as well. The airports in Los Angeles, New York and Chicago show that more passengers do not necessarily mean more weapons finds. Although they are among the American airports with the largest number of passengers, they are not among the airports with the most pistols or revolvers in hand luggage.
Rather, the top ten of the past year included Dallas/Forth Worth International, George Bush Intercontinental in Houston and Tampa International. TSA inspectors pulled most of the weapons from hand luggage last year at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in Georgia, which has been the airport with the most passengers in the world for almost 25 years.
“The Southeast is a hotbed for guns,” said TSA spokesman Mark Howell – referring to the gun laws of the individual states. He observed that where the regulations for the concealed carrying of a weapon are generous, many weapons are also brought to the airport in hand luggage.
Lots of guns sold in the pandemic
A permit for concealed carry is required in about every second American state. As the organization Giffords Law Center complains, the hurdles for approval are low. The San Francisco-based association, which calls for stricter gun laws in the United States, refers to Florida, for example. The state also allowed a self-proclaimed neighborhood watchman to carry a concealed weapon in public after the fatal shooting of unarmed African-American youth Trayvon Martin in 2012, domestic violence and threatening a girlfriend with a shotgun.
The fact that the TSA found more guns in hand luggage in 2022 than in previous years probably has something to do with the high number of gun purchases during the pandemic. In March 2020, the first month of lockdowns, more Americans picked up guns than ever before, according to the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF). The organization then counted 2.3 million pistols, revolvers and rifles sold, about 80 percent more than in the months before the pandemic. More than eight million Americans purchased their first firearm in 2020, and about five million more in 2021.
“No industry achieves a new record every year. But the level goes up, and it stays higher. Gun sales and gun ownership rates remain high in America,” NSSF spokesman Mark Oliva summarized for the Huffpost website. In 2020, almost twice as many firearms were found in carry-on luggage at US airports as in the previous year.
The authority for transport safety meanwhile refers to the law: Pistols, revolvers and parts for the construction of a weapon are prohibited in the aircraft cabin. Americans who do not want to fly without a gun are allowed to carry them in a secured case in checked baggage. Anyone who disregards the regulations must expect a charge and pay. In New York, passengers who don’t want to part with their guns on board an airplane are also expected to walk through the terminal – in handcuffs.