NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — As airport traffic continues to bounce back, and in some cases surpass pre-pandemic levels, there’s a troubling trend at Nashville International Airport (BNA) that has the Transportation Security Administration on high alert. Officials say more guns are being found at security checkpoints at an alarming rate.
“We have, at times, as many as 3,000 passengers trying to depart this airport in one hour. So, obviously you need all the capacity you’ve got to screen passengers not firearms,” explained Steve Wood, a TSA spokesperson.
Wood says last year the TSA discovered 94 firearms at BNA, putting Nashville at number six nationwide for the number of guns found at an airport. So far this year, they have seen 68 firearms within the last seven months.
“Of course, that’s not where you want to be, because it offers additional risk,” said Wood, telling News 2 that it happens all too often. Wood showed us a book, filled with pictures of handguns, marking the day a gun was found at the airport. He says three firearms were found on July 9.
“We haven’t had a lot of business travel, so we have people that are less experienced coming to the checkpoint and forgetting that it’s in their bag,” Wood said.
Wood explains that with more people traveling, there are also more first-time flyers, and many of them may not know how to fly with a firearm. While policy states you cannot bring it in your carry-on bag or purse, News 2 asked what the number one reason people give when the TSA detects a firearm in a carry-on bag.
“It’s almost universal, that I forgot it was in my bag. I’m not sure how you do that, because obviously, it’s a pretty serious situation when you bring it into the airport like that,” said Wood.
Officials say it’s more than just a rule to follow, storing a firearm in carry-on luggage can put security officers in danger, especially if it’s loaded. Wood said, “I mean I’m concerned about the safety of our officers because in many cases, over 80 percent of the firearms are loaded.”
Wood says it doesn’t stop there. When a firearm is found, TSA agents are forced to call local law enforcement, bringing the security line to a halt. Punishment for a passenger who carries a firearm in carry-on baggage could face a civil penalty, along with a $10,000 fine.
The TSA does offer tips for traveling with a firearm:
- Comply with the laws concerning possession of firearms as they vary by local, state, and international governments
- If you are traveling internationally with a firearm in checked baggage, check with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website for information
- Declare each firearm each time you present it for transport as checked baggage. Ask your airline about limitations or if fees apply
- Firearms must be unloaded and locked in a hard-sided container and transported as checked baggage only.
- Firearm parts, including magazines, clips, bolts, and firing pins are prohibited in carry-on baggage, but may be transported in checked baggage
- Replica firearms, including firearm replicas that are toys, may be transported in checked baggage only.