The TSA Found the Most Guns at These Airports


Do air travelers not understand that it’s prohibited to bring their firearms onboard with them? Or do they know that, but think they can sneak their guns through the security checkpoints?

Whatever the underlying motivation, 28 percent more guns were discovered at U.S. airports during 2016 than during the previous year. According to just-released figures from the TSA, the agency found 3,391 guns in passengers’ carry-on bags last year, an average of nine per day.

If that weren’t disturbing enough, fully 83 percent of those firearms were loaded, ready to… well, we don’t really know what the gun-toters had in mind. Most likely, the majority were thinking self-defense. But some may well have had darker motives. Presumably the TSA interviewed the busted gun owners and knows what excuses they gave, if not their true motives. But that information isn’t included in the report.

What the report does include is the list of airports where the most guns were discovered. Here are the top 10:

  1. Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport: 198
  2. Dallas/Fort Worth International: 192
  3. George Bush Intercontinental Airport – Houston: 128
  4. Phoenix Sky Harbor International: 101
  5. Denver International: 98
  6. Orlando International Airport: 86
  7. Nashville International: 80
  8. Tampa International: 79
  9. Austin-Bergstrom International Airport: 78
  10. Salt Lake City International: 75

As the TSA points out, it is possible to take your guns with you. “You can travel with your firearms in checked baggage, but they must first be declared to the airline.”

Guns aren’t the only items not allowed in passengers’ carry-on or check bags; there’s a list of other prohibited items here.

Reader Reality Check

I find the numbers unnerving, especially considering that the TSA’s success rate in detecting firearms is surely less than 100 percent. You?

After 20 years working in the travel industry, and almost that long writing about it, Tim Winship knows a thing or two about travel. Follow him on Twitter @twinship.

This article first appeared on, where Tim is Editor-at-Large.


  1. Most people do this by mistake. I’m a good example I travel 50% by car and 50% by air for travel. I carry a backpack for my computer and my 9mm handgun for self defense. It’s legal to conceal carry in the states I travel to by car such as Kansas, Missouri, Texas, etc. So I have to remember to take out my handgun before I go to the airport. It only takes once to forget and I end up on this list. The TSA knows that most of these folks do this by mistake.

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