(CNN)The number of guns found at airport checkpoints nationwide this year is fast approaching the number caught in all of 2020, officials say, and the uptick is slowing down screening lines as masses of passengers return to air travel.
In the first six months of this year, Transportation Security Administration officers have found almost 3,000 firearms, spokeswoman Sarah Rodriguez told CNN. In 2020, when air travel was depressed, officers found 3,257 firearms. In 2019, officers found 4,432 guns.
Over the July Fourth weekend alone, officers caught 70 guns at airport checkpoints, and 60 were loaded, Rodriguez said. Guns weren’t the only dangerous items screeners caught: A traveler at the Norfolk airport brought 13 firecrackers, a passenger at O’Hare arrived with brass knuckles and Boise, Idaho, screeners found both a loaded firearm and a hatchet in a man’s carry-on, TSA said.
The weapons are part of an uptick that started during the pandemic, when the rate of confiscated weapons soared even as traveler numbers plummeted. Now, they say one factor is a high number of first-time fliers, and others who are out of practice.
In July 2020, when checkpoint traffic dropped to only about a quarter of the usual, officers found guns at three times the usual rate. Over the entire year, TSA found 3,257 firearms, about double the usual rate. Nearly 9 out of 10 were loaded, TSA said.
In addition to steep fines and criminal prosecution, bringing a gun to a TSA checkpoint triggers a response that slows the screening process for other passengers.
That comes as passenger numbers, which dropped during the pandemic, are rebounding. In the last week, TSA has screened about 80% o
TSA found 70 guns at checkpoints over July 4th weekend
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