Either airport security is getting a lot better at finding weapons or more Americans than ever are carrying guns.
The TSA announced Thursday that it discovered a record number of firearms at airport checkpoints in 2015 — 2,653 in all — a 20 percent increase from the previous year. More than four out of five guns found (or about 83 percent) were loaded, and the majority were confiscated at airports in Dallas, Atlanta, and Houston. The number of guns confiscated in airports has been steadily on the rise since 2005, when only 660 guns were discovered in carry-on luggage.
TSA administrator Peter Neffenger suggests that this is a feat of skill on the part of his agents. “Through increased training in detection methods, our officers are becoming more adept at intercepting these prohibited items,” he told USA Today. And it’s certainly possible the agency has stepped things up since it failed 95 percent of security tests and hired Neffenger to replace former administrator Melvin Carraway.
But it’s equally possible that Americans are taking advantage of looser gun laws enacted in many states. For instance, Texas recently passed an open-carry law that will allow guns in churches, theaters, stores, and restaurants, and firearms are now allowed in airports and bars in Georgia. Concealed carry is legal in every single state provided the gun owner meets certain requirements
Thanks to these types of laws, it’s almost — almost — understandable that people like Philip Saada, who was arrested on Wednesday for bringing an antique handgun onto an airplane, don’t understand where they can and can’t carry weapons. (It is legal to fly with a gun, as long as that gun is in your checked bag, unloaded, placed in a locked hard-sided container separate from its ammunition, and properly declared.)
Gun purchases soared in early 2013 after Obama’s reelection and the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, and again at the end of 2015 after the president pressed for stricter gun laws following the shooting in San Bernardino. “President Obama has actually been the best salesman for firearms,” a financial analyst told the Times — more guns were sold in December 2015 than almost any other month in two decades.