More passengers are being caught with guns at airports across the United States, according to the Transportation Security Administration.
The TSA reported that a record breaking number of firearms have been discovered in carry-on bags at checkpoints nationwide so far this year. With nearly two months left in the year, the total number of firearms has already surpassed the 2013 total of 1,813 with 1,872 firearms found.
“The TSA is constantly improving their equipment, and processes, and training for their TSA screeners, so they may be finding more weapons,” said aviation security expert Trenton Higareda with CTI Consulting.
At Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, TSA officers have confiscated 17 guns, up from the 13 reported at this time last year. Six guns have also been found at Midway Airport this year.
Higareda said many of the confiscations are the result of forgetfulness.
“Chicago is another one of those areas where it just may be more people trying to exercise their rights,” he said. “People intending to travel with their firearm that forget that they have them in their carry-on baggage.”
In addition to firearms, authorities say they’re also finding swords, throwing stars and even grenades.
Passengers are allowed to travel with a gun, but it must be unloaded, in a locked, hard container and it must be checked.
“It doesn’t have to be an actual complete weapon, it can be a part of a weapon,” Higareda said. “It can be a silencer, these items are all prohibited.”
Officials say the punishment for attempting to carry-on a firearm depends on local laws, but on average, only 20 percent of passengers are arrested.
NBC5 Investigates reported in February that more than half of travelers whose cases have concluded in Cook County since 2012 either plea to misdemeanors or have their cases dropped all together.
Most often, TSA will impose a civil penalty, including fines from $1,500 to $11,000. TSA says the average fine amounts to a $3,000 penalty.