The Denver International Airport will likely break its record for firearms confiscated by the Transportation Security Administration in 2022. It’s a trend on par with national figures, which are also on track to break records by the end of the year.
With just over three months left in 2022, the airport’s TSA agents have so far found 110 firearms at X-ray screenings.
That’s a rate of approximately 12 confiscations per month, putting TSA on pace to confiscate 146 guns by the end of the year. The agency confiscated 141 guns at DIA during all of 2021.
As of September, DIA has found the seventh most firearms of any U.S. airport in 2022.
“That is about even when you rank airports by the number of travelers screened,” said TSA spokesperson Lorie Dankers. DIA was the sixth busiest airport for TSA screening in 2021.
For comparison, TSA at DIA confiscated 126 firearms in 2018 and 140 in 2019. Confiscations have been trending up nationally for the last decade. The only exception was 2020, when the pandemic decreased air travel. That year, DIA confiscated 104 firearms.
The new figures track guns confiscated in carry-on luggage, not in checked baggage. Transporting firearms in checked baggage is legal as long as the weapons are unloaded, packed in a locked, hard-sided case and declared during the check-in processes.
“Travelers bringing firearms in carry-on luggage is not new and we have now reached an unacceptable level of carelessness by gun owners,” said Larry Nau, TSA Federal Security Director for Colorado, in a January press release.
When TSA officers find a gun, they call local law enforcement based at the airport. Passengers don’t face federal crime charges, but they can get fines up to around $14,000.
Denver saw a high-profile confiscation in 2017, when then-State Rep. Lori Saine was arrested after bringing a loaded handgun through an X-ray machine. She did not face charges.
The rise in firearms at airports aligns with a nationwide increase in gun sales, which have been rising for years. In February, New Jersey Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman proposed federal legislation that would set minimum fines and pay for additional signs at airports.