Guns, knives and cats: These are the things the TSA confiscates

The U.S. Transportation Security Administration confiscated more than 1,800 firearms at U.S. airports from July through September and is expecting to surpass 6,500 firearms by the end of the year.

TSA officers stopped 1,820 firearms at checkpoints during the third quarter, averaging 19.8 per day. Of those, more than 94% were loaded.

In 2022, the TSA prevented 6,542 firearms from being carried on board U.S. aircraft; this year’s collection is expected to exceed that number.

Per U.S. law, passengers traveling through the U.S. wishing to travel with their firearm must properly pack it in checked luggage and declare such items to their airline at the time of check-in. The majority of firearms are detected in carry-on bags, per the TSA.

“Firearms are only permitted in checked baggage, unloaded in a locked hard-sided case and must be declared to the airline when checking the bag at the ticket counter,” TSA Administrator David Pekoske said in a statement. “Firearms are prohibited at security checkpoints, in the secure area of an airport or in the passenger cabin of an aircraft even if a passenger has a concealed carry permit or is in a constitutional carry jurisdiction.”

Firearms must be unloaded and checked in a locked, hard-sided container and then declared to the airline at check-in. Likewise, ammunition (from single bullets to boxes full of bullets), gun magazines (empty or ones with bullets), pepper spray, stun guns, sparklers and fireworks (and anything else labeled as flammable), and replica weapons are also prohibited in carry-on bags.

Upon detecting a firearm at a TSA checkpoint, officers will contact local law enforcement to safely unload and take possession of the firearm before potentially arresting or citing the passenger. Further, the TSA may issue a civil penalty of up to nearly $15,000. Plus, these passengers lose TSA PreCheck eligibility and privileges for five years.

In addition to guns, the TSA regularly confiscates other illegal items.

Some examples include a knife in the shape of a gun at LaGuardia Airport (LGA), a cleaver and Batarang at Buffalo Niagara International Airport (BUF), a knife in a belt buckle at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA), a push knife at Trenton-Mercer Airport (TTN), throwing knives at Frederick Douglass Greater Rochester International Airport (ROC), a machete at Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR), and key knives at Lehigh Valley International Airport (ABE).

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Other items include a cane sword confiscated at EWR, an ax at John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) and sparklers at Roanoke-Blacksburg Regional Airport (ROA). Perhaps the most surprising item of note was a cat at Norfolk International Airport (ORF).

Travelers unsure if an item can be packed in a carry-on bag or a checked bag should download the MyTSA app and use its “What can I bring?” feature. Or you can text “Travel” to AskTSA (275-872). For a full list of acceptable TSA items, visit this page.

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