In Seven Months, 691 People Tried To Take Loaded Firearms Into A US Airline Cabin

In Seven Months, 691 People Tried To Take Loaded Firearms Into A US Airline Cabin

Airline security procedures can be hugely annoying, but this is a reminder that they’re not purely theatre. In the first seven months of this year, US Transportation Security Administration found 821 firearms in carry-on luggage, and the vast majority — 691 — were loaded.

I haven’t seen comparable figures for Australia, but our much tougher gun laws and lower population suggest it wouldn’t be remotely near that number. Indeed, if someone tried to take a loaded gun in hand luggage, I’m convinced it would be headline news. In the States, it’s close to a four-times-a-day occurrence. That’s a frightening reflection of US gun culture, and a reminder that no matter how ludicrous you find liquid restrictions or how worried you are about where body scanner images might end up, people do try and ignore obvious rules and take deadly items onto planes.

Commenters on the TSA blog were quick to point out that the number of firearms discovered represented a tiny proportion of the overall number of passengers. That’s true, but irrelevant. You can argue about the lethal potential of toothpaste, but no-one is arguing over the lethal potential of a loaded gun. No-one needs one of those on a plane.

TSA Year To Date Report [TSA Blog]


  • I’m off to the US in a few weeks and up until now my thoughts about having to deal with TSA have been entirely negative. Looks like I’ll be shutting up and putting up with any delay they cause if this is what even a small minority think is acceptable on a plane.

      • Not quite true. When clearing security in Oz I do not have to remove my shoes, belt, jewellery and wristwatch.
        Generally I find the queues here in Oz are a lot shorter – wait time is painful in US (recent experience of SF, Philly, O’Hare and Denver).
        Also, this might just be a perception, but the US experience is humourless and deadly serious. There is a slightly ‘lighter’ attitude here I’d say.

        • It depends on where you go and what time.
          I clear LAX in about 10 minutes usually because I try to get a flight that arrives around 7am, any later and it can take a long time.

      • Well… the actual security measures in the US are no more painful than those in Australia, but the experience of going through it sure is. Americans seem incapable of getting themselves through security smoothly.

        Even though they know they need to remove all metals from their pockets, take of their shoes, belts, jackets, etc and there are signs telling them this, they still act surprised when they get to the front of the queue. Then they spend 5 minutes unpacking all this stuff and complaining.

        At least in Australia people take the opportunity to prepare themselves while they are in the queue and can dump their shit in a tray and walk straight through. Things are different in the Jetstar terminal of course, but that’s a different story.

        • If your arriving at LAX your not going through the TSA screening (your going through immigration and customs), how long do you have to queue when you fly back, that’s when your being screened by the TSA.

  • What value has the TSA added here? Carry-on luggage was scanned long before the TSA existed. Don’t be fooled by their claims – body scanners and liquid restrictions are security theatre.

  • I wonder how many of those were to cause trouble mid-air, how many were “for protection” either up in the air or in the airport (against terrorists and loud children), and how many were simply second amendment lovers telling at the TSA because it’s their god-given right to carry a gun with them.

    • I’ve read a few articles about this before. Apparently they’re mostly just people who forgot they had a gun in their bag, because it’s always there.

      It may seem weird to us, but I’ve done the same thing with a pocket knife repeatedly. I guess when you have guns around you all the time, they can just slip your mind.

      • Yep. I live in Virginia and have a concealed carry permit, although I do so infrequently because I work in DC (in a federal building, nonetheless). If you’re doing it right, it’s easy to forget you’ve got a gun on you, so I can see it happening. Doubly so if you have it in your bag or briefcase rather than on you.

        The pocket knife analogy is a good one. If I worked in VA and carried all day, all the time, I can totally see it happening.

        (Let’s not forget Simon Overland taking trying to board a plane in Canberra with a magazine for his Glock.)

  • I’d like to know how many of those 691 people were actually going to hold up the plane, or whether they were trying to uphold the second amendment.

    • 100% rednecks and gun nuts who forgot to leave them at home, because otherwise it would have been front page news from the TSA to justify the insane expense and inconvenience.

  • I’d bet that all 691 were taking a domestic flight and just forgot they had their gun their bag. The same way we sometimes forget we have nail clippers or a bottle of water in our bag.

    • That’s a fair point, but the only people who would realistically be able to use said firearm to “take them down” are those who were trained and (likely) frequent users. And being trained in proper use of fire arms would suggest that they take personal safety seriously and would have some other form of self-defense/combat training.

      If we look at the 9/11 scenario;
      – A plane is a resricted space, meaning that any hand-to-hand combat would render a weapon much less effective than at range.
      – Whilst I certainly cannot say for sure (I honestly don’t know), I would expect that at least one person on that flight would have attempted to disarm a terrorist with a realistic success chance that wouldn’t really have been increased by having a firearm.
      – To control the plane they would have been in the cockpit, isolating themselves from the rest of the aircraft. Making a passengers firearms useless.

      If you look at the Batman shootings;
      – I’m pretty sure (not certain) that two of the victims were trained military personnel who died defending their friends and/or loved ones. They chose to physically protect these people as opposed attempting to “take down” the shooter.
      – They were in a cinema. It’s a place you should NEVER need a gun and would never expect to need one. The paranoia about planes being hijacked by terrorists is the only reason you might want a weapon to defend yourself.
      – The guy who committed those shootings was an incredibly screwed-up individual. Regardless of the fact that some might say, “society made him that way”, if you go somewhere and kill people with the strong and only intent to cause suffering then you deserve to be treated and punished like the animal you are.

    • Also, I would think (I don’t really know) that the cinema shooting a gun too, would pretty much have been useless. Because when you think about it:
      a) it’s damn dark
      b) He had like a semi automatic, handgun has little chance.
      c) People panic.
      d) It would have been difficult to find your gun in your bag, load it and aim, whilst being shot at.

      Just sayin, I think no guns is better than all guns.

      • It does happen, media doesn’t often like to report on it. Lower gun crime does not correlate well with greater gun control, there are many complicated factors.

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