LEXINGTON, Ky. (FOX 56) — Kentucky airports saw double the number of guns in 2021 than in 2020, according to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).

Nationwide, one firearm was detected for every 98,000 passengers, while in Kentucky the rate was more than double that with one gun found for every 47,000 passengers.

Kentucky had 119 firearm discoveries last year with the bulk of those at Louisville Muhammad Ali International, 51, and Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky International, 43.

Blue Grass Airport only had 22 discoveries last year, but Barkley Regional did best with only 1.

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport had 507 discoveries on its own.

TSA spokesperson Mark Howell said the spike may be due in part to more people getting back to traveling, therefore, some airports are starting to see more foot traffic. However, Howell said if you do try to bring a gun through a TSA checkpoint there will be consequences.

“You’ve got law enforcement who can cite or arrest you, a civil penalty from TSA which can go to a maximum of $13,900, you’re also going to lose your pre-check status and more than likely you’re going to have to rebook your flight. So, it’s a very costly mistake that is completely avoidable by just doing a little bit of a check before you leave for the airport,” said Howell.

In October 2021, the TSA started to notice the trend and released a statement.

“The number of firearms that our TSA officers are stopping at airport checkpoints is alarming,” TSA Administrator David Pekoske said. “Firearms, particularly loaded firearms, introduce an unnecessary risk at checkpoints, have no place in the passenger cabin of an airplane, and represent a very costly mistake for the passengers who attempt to board a flight with them.”

In 2021, travel volume also increased to near pre-pandemic and TSA officers screened 585.3 million travelers, averaging about 1.6 million passengers per day according to the TSA.

“In many ways, 2021 was a year of resilience as the dedicated TSA workforce worked diligently to screen near pre-pandemic passenger volumes at the nation’s airports while facing three major waves of COVID-19 across the country,” said TSA Administrator David Pekoske. “Despite the challenges, we facilitated freedom of movement for passengers and goods, and we made great progress in security innovation in close coordination with our federal partners and industry stakeholders.”

Can I carry a firearm on a plane?

According to TSA, guns are allowed on commercial flights if they are unloaded, packed in a hard-sided case, and placed in checked luggage.

During the check-in process, the passenger then needs to declare their firearm, ammunition, and related parts at the airline ticket counter during their check-in process. Guns are not permitted in carry-on luggage.

Failure to follow TSA’s procedures can lead to a civil penalty of up to $13,900, no matter their permit status. This can also result in Trusted Traveler status and TSA PreCheck benefits being revoked.

What happens to guns confiscated at airports?

According to the TSA, all weapons detected in carry-on bags are turned over to local law enforcement authorities.

Weird finds of 2021

Earlier in January, TSA also released their annual list of the “most unusual” confiscated items including a chainsaw, meth-filled breakfast burrito, and bullets concealed in a deodorant stick.

TSA said passengers can use the “Can I Bring?” feature on the TSA website or on the TSA mobile app, myTSA, to see if their cargo is allowed. Travelers can also tweet to “@AskTSA” if they have a travel question or are unsure if an item is allowed through security in a carry-on bag. Just snap a picture or send a question and get real-time assistance weekdays from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. EST.

National rankings

Here are the top 10 airports where guns were caught by TSA in 2021 according to TSA:

RankAirport (Code)Total
1Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) 507
2Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) 317
3Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) 245
4Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX) 196
5Nashville International Airport (BNA) 163
6Denver International Airport (DEN) 141
7Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL) 128
8Orlando International Airport (MCO) 124
9Louis Armstrong New Orleans International (MSY) 119
10Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC) 115