JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The head of the Transportation Security Administration at Jacksonville International Airport weighed in Thursday on an influx of guns being found in carry-on luggage.
“We’re getting them far too often. Current year to date, we have already exceeded as an agency 3,000, which puts us on track to beat our annual record of 6,000 some,” said Federal Security Director Brian Cahill.
Cahill says, on average, 17 firearms are found each day at airports across the country.
In 2021, 29 firearms were removed from the security checkpoint at JAX.
Cahill says, this year, 34 guns have been found — five more than in all of last year.
“Eighty-five percent of them across the full system are found loaded — which is very concerning,” Cahill said.
TSA officials say those found with guns at security are typically licensed and highly trained gun owners, but it keeps happening.
News4JAX asked Cahill what the common reaction is when travelers are confronted about having a gun.
“They say, ‘I forgot,’” Cahill said.
Cahill says forgetting impacts everyone.
Anytime a gun is found going through the X-ray tunnel, the entire checkpoint shuts down.
“People need to be more mindful of their actions before because they do affect others,” said traveler Caroline Brown.
Traveler John Summit described it as “making your problem everyone else’s problem.”
Cahill says those who have been found with guns at security very rarely ever do it again — it’s typically a one-time thing.
Guns are allowed in checked baggage if they are secured properly — but never in a carry-on.
Cahill talked about the consequences travelers face if they are found with a gun in their carry-on.
“At a minimum, here in Jacksonville, they’re going to have a nice little appointment with airport police. Minimally, could impact their opportunity to board the flight that they were supposed to be on,” Cahill said.
Signs throughout the airport show travelers could face up to a nearly $14,000 fine if a gun is found in a carry-on.
Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, gun sales have more than doubled. Studies show more than 5 million adults became first-time gun owners from January 2020 to April 2021.
News4JAX asked Cahill if increased gun sales contribute to the rise in guns found in carry-on luggage.
“Whether that’s a relation to the increase of weapon sales across the country, I can’t necessarily connect those dots, but it seems to be a logical conclusion,” Cahill said.
Cahill says not bringing a gun and arriving to the airport two hours early are key for safe and efficient travel this summer.