AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Austin-Bergstrom International Airport ranks among the top 10 airports for the highest number of firearms found in carry-on luggage at a checkpoint last year, according to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).
These incidents have risen nationwide from 5,972 in 2021 to 6,542 in 2022. In 2010, there were only 1,123 firearms found at TSA checkpoints nationwide, according to the TSA.
It is legal to transport a firearm and ammunition on a plane if a passenger follows the TSA guidelines. A person must declare the items and keep them in a locked, hard-sided container in their checked luggage. It is not legal to keep a firearm in a carry-on piece of luggage.
Patricia Mancha, a media spokesperson for the TSA, said when agents discover a firearm at a security checkpoint, they are required to not touch the weapon and immediately contact the local authorities.
“We have had people say that the TSA agent planted the gun in their bag,” Mancha said.
Whether or not the person will get arrested is generally up to the local police department. They will take into account mitigating factors, such as criminal record and legality of the weapon, in deciding if the person should be arrested, Mancha said.
Mancha said the TSA has heard a wide variety of excuses on how a firearm got into a person’s carry-on luggage.
“They range from I forgot it in my bag to (the gun) is my spouse’s,” Mancha said. “We have even heard my three-year-old packed my bag, and I didn’t know the (firearm) was in there.”
She added, “We encourage people to be responsible gun owners. We really want people to get to their destinations, but we want to assure that people get their safety.”