AUSTIN (KXAN) — Given the gradual rise in firearms found at Transportation Security Administration (TSA) checkpoints at the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, TSA hosted a presentation on how to properly and legally travel with a gun. While they were at it, TSA presented some prohibited items they found in some travelers’ luggage. 

Austin-Bergstrom ranked in the top ten U.S. airports for most firearms found in carry-on luggage for the first time since TSA started releasing the data in 2008. 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.

Among the items, people either forgot were in their bags before going through the TSA checkpoint or deliberately tried to hide, were tasers, pepper spray canisters, bowling pins, demilitarized grenade canisters, hunting knives, brass knuckles, gardening tools and a wide variety of seemingly innocuous objects with sharp knives hidden inside.

What can obscure a deadly knife, you ask? Apparently, a lot. TSA confiscated an umbrella sword, lipstick that twists into a dagger and a comb with a knife hidden inside. 

Patricia Mancha, a media spokesperson for TSA, said a couple of years ago in Houston, a man tried to get a meth balloon past a TSA checkpoint by hiding it in his breakfast burrito. 

“An anomaly showed up in the X-ray. So, he was asked to open his burrito,” Mancha said, “and sure enough, there was a meth balloon in there,” Mancha said. 

Punishment for bringing firearms through a TSA Checkpoint

Every time a TSA agent finds a gun, the inspection stops and the police are called, Mancha said. Once the police have confirmed the item is a firearm, the case is taken for adjudication. 

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.

“And then additionally, travelers do face a fine of up to $15,000 from TSA. So, it’s not an inexpensive experience, either,” she said. 

Mancha said the excuses people have used when caught at a TSA checkpoint with a weapon have been ridiculous at times. 

“My three-year-old packed my bag (with a gun in it). That’s an excuse we’ve actually heard…So, you know, we just remind people if you’re a responsible gun owner, you should know where your gun is at all times.”

“If you’re going to travel, we recommend that you start at zero, empty out the bag that you’re going to use either as a carry-on, or check luggage so that you know exactly what’s in it. It’s every traveler’s responsibility to pack their own bag,” Mancha said. 

Traveling with a deadly weapon

It is legal to transport a firearm and ammunition on a plane if a passenger follows the TSA guidelines. The guideline instructs a person to declare the items with their airline and keep them in a locked, hard-sided container in their checked luggage. It is never permitted to keep a gun, ammunition or any firearm parts in a piece of carry-on luggage. 

“So, follow those simple steps, and you’ll have a better time at the airport,” Macha said. 

For other items that travelers may be questioning whether they can bring with them or not, TSA has a search engine where someone can plug in the name of an item, and it will tell you whether it can be brought on the plane.