The number of guns found at Pennsylvania airports increased by more than 25% last year

FILE - A Transportation Security Administration officer works at Dallas Love Field Airport on June 24, 2020, in Dallas. A man was arrested Monday, Feb. 27, 2023, after an explosive was found in a bag checked onto a Florida-bound flight at Lehigh Valley International Airport in Allentown, Pa., federal authorities said. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez, File)

By Patrick Berkery

January 23, 2024

A big reason for the spike was the record number of guns detected at Philadelphia International Airport and Pittsburgh International Airport.

There was a significant uptick in the number of guns Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officers detected at Pennsylvania airport security checkpoints last year. TSA officers stopped 103 handguns at Pennsylvania airports in 2023, an increase of more than 25% from the 82 guns detected in 2022.  

The number of guns officers nabbed at Philadelphia International Airport and Pittsburgh International Airport contributed to the spike. Records were set for the most guns caught in a single year at each airport in 2023, with 45 guns caught at the airport checkpoints in Philadelphia (the previous record was 44 set in 2022), and 43 guns detected at the Pittsburgh airport checkpoints (the previous record was 35 set in 2019).

Neither Philadelphia or Pittsburgh came anywhere close to having the most guns detected at TSA checkpoints. Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport led the way with 451.

Here’s the breakdown of gun detection at Pennsylvania airports in 2023:

  • Philadelphia International Airport – 45
  • Pittsburgh International Airport – 44
  • Harrisburg International Airport – 8
  • Erie International Airport – 2
  • Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport – 2
  • Arnold Palmer Regional Airport (Latrobe) – 1
  • Lehigh Valley International Airport – 1
  • University Park Airport (State College) – 0

Nationwide, TSA officers detected 6,737 firearms at airport security checkpoints in 2023. It was a significant increase from the 6,542 detected in 2022. Of the guns caught in 2023, approximately 93 percent were loaded. Firearms were caught at 265 airport checkpoints nationwide. Ten years ago, just 1,813 firearms were detected.

Travelers who bring firearms to the checkpoint are subject to criminal charges from law enforcement and civil penalties from TSA. Even if a traveler has a concealed weapon permit, firearms are not permitted to be carried onto an airplane. However, travelers with proper firearm permits can travel legally with their firearms in their checked bags if they follow a few simple guidelines.

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