KFOX14 Investigates: TSA finds record number of weapons at airport checkpoints

KFOX14 Investigates: TSA finds record number of weapons at airport checkpoints

Federal agents seized a record breaking number of guns at airports nationwide in 2017. The Transportation Security Administration confiscated almost 4,000 of them, along with thousands of other weapons.

Going through airport security can be a hassle, but also necessary for travelers such as Sonia Perez of west el Paso.

“I’m trying to get where I need to be; I’m trying to come home safe to my family,” Perez said.

The TSA said the week of Feb. 5-11 saw a new record set for the number of firearms found in a single week --and one of them was in El Paso.

“Unfortunately, we continue to see an increase in the number of firearms brought to the checkpoint,” said TSA spokesperson Carrie Harmon.

Almost 11 times a day, TSA agents discover a firearm in airport security.

The nearly 4,000 guns found in 2017 is a 17 percent increase from 2016.

About 84 percent of those guns were loaded.

“Safety is everything,” Perez said.

Three Texas airports topped the list: 211 guns were discovered at Dallas Fort Worth International, 142 George Bush Intercontinental and 93 at Love Field in Dallas.

In El Paso, 12 guns were confiscated in both 2017 and 2016; up from seven in 2015.

“That’s kind of surprising,” said Mark Huitron, an EL Paso traveler.

“I think even just one (is too many),” Perez said.

Passengers said it gives them pause to think about fellow travelers having a loaded gun at the airport.

“I think about it a lot coming into the airport, especially with what happened in Florida,” Huitron said.

“An awful thing could happen at any moment,” Perez said.

Harmon with TSA tells KFOX14, “Most people that bring a firearm to the checkpoint tell us they forgot it was in their bag.”

But it can be a costly mistake.

When a gun is found, TSA alerts airport police and criminal charges could follow.

Plus TSA also issues fines.

“The average fine for a loaded firearm is $4,000,” Harmon said.

It's not just guns getting pulled prior to a flight. In 2017, agents at El Paso International found hundreds of knives, eight stun guns, 326 firearms parts, magazines and hundreds of rounds of ammunition. A sword was also seized, along with a “zombie killer” knife resembling a machete.

A fake grenade, replica suicide vest and realistic claymore mine were also discovered in checked luggage.

“When we see that in the X-ray machine, we don't know if that’s a real grenade or not, so we have to stop screening,” Harmon said.

The TSA said the passenger with the replica suicide vest was an instructor traveling with training aids.

The TSA reminds passengers that firearms are allowed in checked bags.

“You have to declare it the ticket counter, it has to be in a locked sided case and unloaded,” Harmon said.

El Paso travelers said they feel safe at airports, but Huitron pointed out that, “Anything can happen now. You need to be aware."

Harmon suggested that those who haven't flown in a while check their website TSA.GOV for the list of banned items.

If you’re unsure about an item, you can also tweet them a picture or ask a question and they do respond.

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