The TSA Shouldn’t Be Proud Of Their 2023 Gun Finding Numbers


TSA airport security
AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

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In a recent press release, the Transportation Security Agency (TSA) announced that they found a bunch of guns in 2023. But, the numbers don’t present the problem the agency thinks it does. If anything, it shows us that the agency shouldn’t exist.

The Numbers

From the press release:

During 2023, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) intercepted a total of 6,737 firearms at airport security checkpoints, preventing them from getting into the secure areas of the airport and onboard aircraft. Approximately 93% of these firearms were loaded. This total surpasses the previous year’s record of 6,542 firearms stopped at checkpoints and represents the highest one-year total in TSA’s history.

“We are still seeing far too many firearms at TSA checkpoints, and what’s particularly concerning is the amount of them loaded, presenting an unnecessary risk to everyone at the TSA checkpoint,” said TSA Administrator David Pekoske. “Firearms and ammunition are strictly prohibited in carry-on baggage. 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.”

The release goes on to tell us what happens when a gun is found in checked baggage or on someone’s person. Because most TSA agents are not actually law enforcement, guns are entirely too icky for them to handle. So, they call for an “only one” (usually a local airport or city officer), who can then take possession of the gun, clear it and detain the gun’s owner.

If the owner is both dumb enough to talk to police (here’s why you should NEVER do that) and tell them taking the gun in the carry on was intentional, then the TSA will take federal criminal action or levy a huge fine against them. But, if they don’t have reason to think it was something other than an honest mistake, the TSA will issue a warning or small fine and local police may or may not charge under state law if there is a law against possessing guns in the secure area of an airport.

Why These Numbers Shouldn’t Impress Anybody

On the surface, it might sound good that TSA kept over 6,000 guns off planes. I mean, who knows, maybe all 6,000 people were really secretly Al Qaeda sympathizers and TSA prevented the next 9/11! But, when you dig a little deeper, the truth doesn’t make the TSA the heroes of this tale.

The unpopular and little-known truth is that the TSA fails to catch weapons and explosives 95% of the time when government agents test the effectiveness of the checkpoints. And, no, you don’t need to be some kind of secret squirrel type to get a gun on a plane, as one honest gun owner accidentally discovered in 2010. The TSA simply misses firearms in bags and on people, with no special effort made to conceal them from the scanners.

With a 95% miss rate and 6,737 guns detected, the number of guns they missed was approximately 128,000. This means that on average, one to two flights per day (out of 87,000 flights) has a gun on it that the TSA missed. That’s not an insane number when we consider that the United States has over 20,000,000 CCW permit holders, an unknown number of people carrying under permitless carry laws and an unknowable number of criminals carrying guns for nefarious purposes.

But, despite the fact that, on average, at least one gun unlawfully flies on a plane daily in the United States, we don’t often hear of hijackings. In fact, a Google News search doesn’t have any recent results of such stories, with most of them focusing on historical hijackings or 9/11.

Why aren’t we seeing a rash of hijackings as concealed carry got extremely popular during the last two decades? There are two big reasons.

First off, most of the actual improvements in security didn’t happen at the security checkpoints. The cockpits of airliners were beefed up, and some pilots were armed. The law enforcement and intelligence communities got serious about finding organized plots like 9/11. Air Marshals were put on flights, and a criminal would never know whether their flight had either an armed marshal or an armed pilot.

The other big reason is that most guns brought on a plane are brought on accidentally. Most people carrying a gun do so for good reasons, like self defense, and not intent to commit criminal acts like hijacking an aircraft. So, nobody taking a gun on a plane accidentally even tries to do that.

It’s also true that on Amtrak trains there is almost never any kind of a security screening. And, despite the hyperventilations about guns and planes, guns are almost never used in a criminal act on the trains, despite many people going by the “concealed means concealed” rule, including criminals with bad intentions.

The TSA’s Taxpayer-Funded Security Theater Needs To End

Given that guns are already on planes and that they’re on trains in even greater numbers, and bad things aren’t happening all the time, it’s pretty clear that banning guns from planes is pointless. Many people believe that we’re being kept safe by these measures, but we just aren’t. The numbers don’t lie.

So, we should get rid of the TSA, get rid of the security checkpoints, and let individual airlines decide how they want to handle things. If an individual airline wants to ban guns, wand passengers, and rifle through our luggage, they should do that at their own expense and not at taxpayer expense. They can also live with their decision on that in the market, where the more intrusive airlines will find themselves getting less business than the less intrusive ones.

One thing’s for sure, nobody likes this expensive and pointless security theater, even if many people wrongly think it helps.

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