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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  1. The private business called an airline does not want your guns as carry on luggage. If you don’t like that private business policy??? You can certainly walk from one place to the next instead of flying.

    Or drive a car.

      • Hijackings aren’t happening *because* of what happened on 9-11-2001.

        The passengers will do what they did on Flight 93, if necessary.

        “Let’s roll.”

    • “your guns as carry on luggage“

      Right, just think how many times a carry-on stored in the overhead compartment falls to the deck while being retrieved, it’s like a P320 drop test on every flight.

      • Which virtually every gun is going to pass. Unless you’re carrying a SAA cowboy gun with the hammer resting on a loaded chamger.

        • “Unless you’re carrying a SAA cowboy gun with the hammer resting on a loaded chamger. …”

          … or it belongs to Alec Baldwin.

      • So, MajorLiar, if this is some kind of problem, I’m sure you can tell us (citing, of course, Vox or Slate or Salon, or maybe even WaPo ro the NY Slimes), HOW MANY ‘negligent discharges’ have occurred on commercial flights, due to bags containing guns falling out of the overhead compartments????

        Oh, and IF you had the brains God promised a doorknob, you might even be smart enough ta ask the question: “How frequently were guns used to highjack airplanes, before the TSA came along?”.

        But, since we all know you are dumber than Balaam’s off ass, you probably don’t even comprehend the question. There is an actual field of study (they actually have degree programs in it) called “Risk Analysis”. Look up the definition, you drooling, brain-dead moron.

      • MINOR49er, Do you have any proof of this allegation or are you just another hoplophobe.

    • The airlines are not in charge of that policy. The security — TSA — is run by federal agents.

      Only private charters can avoid that.

      • Cloud, you have to understand that MINOR49er is not the brightest light on the tree. Nor the sharpest tack in the draw.

    • I have been following the TSA, the number of guns confiscated in the condition of the confiscated guns.
      Every year at least 90% of the guns confiscated are loaded.

      Year after year, approximately 30% of the loaded guns have a round in the chamber.
      At least among irresponsible gun owners, the great majority carry Israeli style with a loaded magazine and an empty chamber.

    • Mmmm. Keeping guns of planes prevented crew and passengers from preventing 9/11. Remember, we had more than 20 years prior, in which everyone was told to COOPERATE WITH hijackers. Flight crew should always have had access to weapons. We might debate access for passengers, but flight crew should always have been prepared to defend the aircraft, themselves, and the passengers in their charge. Yes, actually firing a weapon aboard an aircraft can be dangerous. But the crew should have been trained all along how to mitigate the risk.

      Some are coming around to my way of thinking in recent years. Want a gun free zone? OK, but, now you’re liable for the safety of anyone and everyone who enters your gun free zone. You don’t want to be my bodyguard? Fine, then don’t ask for a gun free zone.

    • Prndll, true, but just think if guns were permitted on aircraft? The 9/11 terrorists would have been able to maintain complete control on all three of the planes.

      • “…but just think if guns were permitted on aircraft?”

        Yep, the passengers of those three planes could have maintained complete control over the terrorists.

  2. The TSA is a distraction. The 911 hijackers should have been tracked in the United States as visitors. And deported. The Borders of this country are wide open. Criminals of every stripe are entering into this country. And nobody knows how many or where they are.

  3. “what’s particularly concerning is the amount of them loaded” – proof that TSA mgmt are morons. Why would anyone have/carry an unloaded gun? As useless as Joey Obiden.

  4. Why not have simple metal detectors BEFORE we get to “security”? If the detector picks up an anomaly, a red light flashes and a deep voice commands, “Check Your Person and Carry On, Anomaly Detected!”

    Nearly all the guns they find were simply forgotten, not carried with criminal intent.

    • If you’re a gun owner, you should be aware of where your guns are and have enough situation awareness to know guns are forbidden in certain areas.

      And check your luggage before you pack. Don’t use a range bag for your journey without checking every pocket, nook, cranny, etc.

    • Because I can carry concealed in non-secured areas in airports here in Texas and it’s no one else’s business but mine. I’m not the problem in America, and I don’t want a GD alarm going off the second I step through the door freaking out all the dipshits.

      Responsible gun owners need to be responsible. It’s not complicated.

    • Because they *want* to persecute you. They don’t want to give you a chance to catch your mistake.

  5. Thanks for the heads up. I went to the blog very interesting. Some good information on full body xray machines.

  6. It would be better if the airlines were in charge of their own private security. And the government wasn’t involved. The problem is the libertarians liberals and the left demand that everybody’d be treated the same.

    Because it’s “racist” to look for Muslims carrying bombs on to airplanes. When they have a documented long history of taking bombs onto airplanes.

    They do not want to use documented criminal profiling, that has been effective at identifying and catching criminals.

    • “It would be better if the airlines were in charge of their own private security. ”

      Airlines were in charge. Then came the Pan Am disaster over Lockerbie, Scotland in 1988. Pan Am screwed up the scanning of checked baggage. The incident (intentional bombing) resulted in 270 people dead, and ultimately the destruction of world-leading Pan American airlines; TSA was born.

        • “The Pan Am Lockerbie attack was in 1988. The TSA was formed in 2001.
          So. Bzzzzzt. Try again.”

          Feel better? Glad to be of service.

          When constructing the reply, didn’t want to string out the entire history between Lockerbie and actual TSA founding. My error for truncating the history. Point being, airlines proved they could not provide adequate, reliable passenger safety (not sure TSA has, either), so Govt stepped in.

        • “…the entire history between Lockerbie and actual TSA founding…”

          I can understand why it would seem essential to include Lockerbie, 13 years earlier, but superfluous to mention 9/11 a few months before. That definitely makes total sense if you’re trying to save time.

      • If I remember correctly the lockerbie bombing happened because the terrorist gave the bomb to his girlfriend. Who was getting on the airplane and he was not.

        That’s when they started asking if all your luggage was yours? Or did somebody give you one to carry onto the airplane?

        • “If I remember correctly the lockerbie bombing happened because the terrorist gave the bomb to his girlfriend.”

          Think I should have done more research as to details. My memory of the episode was that the bomb was checked baggage. And, I remember the questions you listed. Wonder why those were dropped, TSA or not.

          My confidence in TSA evaporated when, as a former pilot, former holder of extensive clearances, and while a federal employee, was turned down for a part-time job with TSA, being unqualified for looking at tickets and faces.

        • I heard the terrorist checked luggage for a flight to New York, was on the plane until London and left the plane there. Luggage continued.

        • “…was turned down…”

          Just for kicks, try again now, presenting yourself with coke-bottle glasses & dyslexia. They’ll wonder where you’ve been hiding all these years, and want to start you tomorrow.

        • to Sam I Am
          You are correct.The bomb was in checked baggage. But it was given to a passenger. They didn’t know what it was. And the terrorists never got on the plane.

      • The terrorist change tactics the airline was not at fault as far as I’m concerned. Having the government run things has not prevented terrorists from getting on board airplanes.

        But it has created an enormous government bureaucracy. Full of government employees you can’t fire.

        • “Having the government run things has not prevented terrorists from getting on board airplanes.
          But it has created an enormous government bureaucracy.”

          Zackly. Both industry and govt have tried providing security. Industry didn’t want to interfere with making money; govt fully embraced the added interference….and power.

  7. TTAG: gun owners are law abiding, responsible heroes.

    Also TTAG: gun owners screw up all the time, and the laws shouldn’t apply to us

    • All the people I’ve ever seen in this life that actually think the law should not apply to them are on the left. Those like the Clintons, the Bidens, the Obamas.

      Owning a gun does not equate to being law abiding or a responsible hero.

      Gun owners do screw up from time to time just like non-gun owners.

    • I know you think this is a nominee for 2024 Comment Of The Year On The Entire Internet. In reality, I laughed at how stupid this was. For real. I really did laugh out loud. LOL<– see this?

    • Truth,

      “You keep using that [name]. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

      Receipts, please.

  8. If your airport has a no firearms allowed sign at the entrance, how do you legally get to the counter to declare your firearms?

    • “If your airport has a no firearms allowed sign at the entrance, how do you legally get to the counter to declare your firearms?”

      ‘Tis a puzzlement.

      Govt logic at work?

  9. “With a 95% miss rate and 6,737 guns detected, the number of guns they missed was approximately 128,000.”

    This cannot be true.

    First, that 95% figure comes from security trials done 9 years ago. I am not one to defend the idiots at the federal government, but to imagine they were so stupid that they didn’t learn a SINGLE thing about how to improve detection is difficult to believe. The sec. of Homeland Security at the time resigned, it was an embarrassment. Screening machines I know have been updated since that time, and newer ones have been going in since last year.

    Second, let’s assume the TSA is that stupid and nothing has changed since 2015. The 95% figure from 2015 didn’t represent only firearms. It was a range of mock explosives and banned weapons, and the teams trying to sneak these things through were being as crafty as they could. They didn’t just toss a gun in a bag. They tried to make it as hard as possible to find. Even so, firearms were but one of those banned weapons they tried to sneak through.

    The almost-7,000 guns that were found by the TSA last year were all found in carry-on luggage. My wife and I fly almost every month all over the country and get pulled aside frequently for harmless, stupid shit in carry-on bags. Even when we aren’t pulled aside, someone else is. It is inconceivable that 128,000 firearms in carry-on bags (or someone was strapped and got through the people detectors) went through those same machines undetected.

  10. First off, most of the actual improvements in security didn’t happen at the security checkpoints

    The era of successful suicide hijackings ended the moment Todd Beamer said “Let’s roll” on Flight 93.

    Every serious hijacking attempt since then (the shoe bomber, the underwear bomber) has been stopped not by the TSA but by civilian passengers beating the crap out of the would-be hijacker.

    9/11 was only (mostly) successful because nobody realized terrorists would do such a thing.

    • Bingo. You nailed it. When sheep stop being sheep, the wolves no longer have free reign. Every flight needs a couple sheep dogs aboard. My preferences run to German Shepards and Australian Shepards, but I really don’t care about nationality, race, color, religion, gender, or whatever.

  11. @James Campbell
    “I’ve made the mistake of using a 5:11 backpack that’s been used at the range and shooting property.
    I got “enhanced scrutiny” ”

    Seems I have an advantage owning only a single, .22LR gun. That gun is a poor choice for carry, so I don’t. The firearm has its own “bag”, and the bag is not suitable for travel, except to/from the range.

    • I have over a dozen handguns that get ranged. Can totally understand how that backpack swabbed though.
      The thing has had thousands of ejected casings rained down on it, been used as a bench rest bag for handguns, an AR rifle rest bag when shooting prone…..

      • “The thing has had thousands of ejected casings rained down on it, been used an a bench rest bag for handguns, an AR rifle rest bag when shooting prone…..”


  12. The TSA exists for a threat that will NEVER happen on an American Flagged aircraft again. Todd Beamer and “Let’s Roll” ended the almost 50 year history of sitting down and taking it on a hijacking. The Shoe Bomber and numerous other idiots have proven Americans won’t be victims any more. Look at the French Train hijacking…who stopped it..? American Citizens (ok military but still unarmed)

    wanna stop hijackers even thinking about it?
    Eliminate any civil or criminal liability a citizen may take to stop and hijacking until the hijacker is delivered to law enforcement

    • So far, we’ve been commenting here only on the standard TSA. Start talking about their VIPR teams they’ve been rolling out to harass people in airports, bus depots, and train stations *after* the passengers have already traveled and egressed from the vehicles, and the frustration with our overlords will really begin to set it. Makes me glad I’ve never ridden on a public train or bus (read that to be Amtrak, Greyhound, et al) in my life, and never will. It’s all I can do to minimize plane trips to only rare vacation spots we cannot drive to.

  13. @Cloudbuster
    “I can understand why it would seem essential to include Lockerbie, 13 years earlier, but superfluous to mention 9/11 a few months before. That definitely makes total sense if you’re trying to save time.”

    Indeed. Fingers are badly curled, now; “hunt and peck” typing is time-consuming, and boring.

  14. OK here’s the thing about TSA’s ‘firearm’ numbers, they weren’t all actually firearms.

    TSA uses the governments stupid definition of ‘firearm’ to inflate its numbers. For example, there have been people who had a Sig FCU and under federal law that FCU is a ‘firearm’ even though its not actually a firearm. Another example, people have had stripped lowers and under federal law that’s a firearm when in reality its not a firearm. One person I met who worked for TSA said they get a lot of people around the holidays or other times with things like the Sig FCU or a stripped lower who are traveling to be with relatives for the holidays or for other events and the items are gifts for others in family or friends, but they get counted as ‘firearms’ because the law defines them as ‘firearm’.

    So I don’t know exactly how many of these ‘firearms’ TSA claims are not in reality actually firearms but rather something defined as a firearm under federal law – but there is a difference between the government saying something is a firearm and that something actually being a firearm in reality. For example, if the government defined tires as ‘vehicles’ one could say, using that government definition, that there are enough ‘vehicles’ in the U.S. such that every person could have 500 ‘vehicles’ each – but the reality is that tires are not ‘vehicles’.

    • While I might agree that there are a lot of stripped lowers out there that have never been built, for every unbuilt serialized lower there have been 10 or more unserialized 80% finished and built up. The numbers of finished and operational ARs in circulation within the US is woefully under-reported.

      Just looking at the number of certain parts imported and domestically-produced such as pistol braces and folding stocks is orders of magnitude more than the sales of serialized lowers. While many if these parts are never built and sit in boxes of parts in people’s garages and basements a good portion of them do get used.

  15. In the early 1990’s I worked for a private company doing the same job as TSA does now. I am not surprised that the TSA has NOT improved on the rate of Gun detection that the private company had.

  16. GUN LAW DOWN Post Office Carry Now Legal? Bruen Supreme Court Looms over US v Ayala in Florida Court.

    • It’s a toe in the door but we are a LONG way away from Gun-Free VDZ’s being stuck down at the Postal Offices. This ruling applies ONLY to the criminal defendant in this case and to nobody else at present and until or unless it makes it all the way up to the supreme Court on appeal it never will.

      ya ya, it is a precident and all but whenever has that actually mattered in liberal courtrooms that flagrantly ignore Bruen and Heller? -it doesn’t amount to a hill of beans at present. And if we fail in 2024 it will mean nothing once we lose control of SCOTUS appointments. If we lose either Thomas or Alito we are done. The rest are either foaming-at-the-mouth Marxists or weak-tea like Roberts, Kavanaugh and disappointing Amy.

    • “GREAT 2A NEWS: New Data Proves “Common Use” For AR-15s….”

      Read recently that the anti-gun mafia is changing the definition of “Common Use”. “Possession” is not considered “use”; only actual use in self-defense. This is designed to take away our claim that AR-type weapons are not “dangerous and unusual”, due to the number purchased and possessed each year.

    • Remind me where that “common use” clause is in the second amendment. It must be hiding under the penumbras. Sure sounds like an infringement on my right to keep and bear arms that may not be in common use, because “shall not be infringed” doesn’t list any exceptions.

  17. If the TSA were disbanded who would employ all of those rejects? There are only so many makework and button-sorting jobs for the special needs segment of the population. The FAA and Boeing can only take so many more with their own DEI diversity hire policies. Look forward to more tower mistakes and door plugs popping out of Boeing aircraft at altitude.

    • Gotta keep them D voters employed.
      This is how Braindead has a 30% approval rating.
      The Soros and Bloomberg money doesn’t cover all the useful idiots.

    • The government could hire them to dig holes and fill them back in. Just as useful, but less harmful to society.

  18. @Chris T in KY
    to Sam I Am
    “The bomb was in checked baggage. But it was given to a passenger. They didn’t know what it was. And the terrorists never got on the plane.”

    Thanx for looking that up, or having a better memory than I can muster.

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