TSA seized record number of firearms in 2023, including 145 guns from Southern California airports

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LOS ANGELES (KABC) — Officials say 145 firearms were seized by security checkpoint personnel at five airports in Southern California last year.

The weapons were found at Los Angeles International Airport, Long Beach Airport, Hollywood Burbank Airport, John Wayne Airport in Orange County and Ontario International Airport. Eighty-one firearms were found at LAX, five more than last year.

Transportation Security Administration officials and law enforcement held a news conference at LAX Wednesday morning warning gun owners about the risks of being found with weapons at security checkpoints.

“Travelers should know that TSA can levy a civil penalty for bringing a firearm to a security checkpoint,” TSA Federal Security Director Jason Pantages said. “The amount of the penalty, which can be as high as $15,000, depends on whether the firearm was loaded. And 87% of the firearms discovered here at LAX are loaded.”

TSA confiscated 6,737 guns at airport security checkpoints nationwide in 2023 and about 93% of them were loaded, according to the agency. The number of firearms seized is the highest recorded and surpasses last year’s total of 6,542.

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, one of the nation’s busiest airfields, saw the most, with 451.

“Firearms and ammunition are strictly prohibited in carry-on baggage,” TSA Administrator David Pekoske said in a statement. “Passengers are only allowed to travel with an unloaded firearm, and only if they pack it properly in a locked, hard-sided case in their checked baggage and first declare it to the airline at the check-in counter.”

In addition to the possible TSA civil citation, people could be convicted of a misdemeanor for bringing a weapon to an airport security checkpoint. Los Angeles Airport Police Chief Cecil Rhambo said people who are convicted in such cases could be sent to a one-year diversionary program.

“After a year, the owner of the firearm is eligible to retrieve the weapon as long as they remain clear from any disqualifying issues such as a restraining order, some mental health issues or domestic violence incidents,” he said.

City News Service contributed to this report.

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