MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Representatives from Miami International Airport and Atlanta’s Hartfield-Jackson Airport testified before lawmakers in the House as part of a national effort to tackle the surge in weapons discovered at TSA checkpoints nationwide.
Last year, the U.S. broke a record for guns found in carry-on luggage. An alarmingly high number of those weapons were loaded.
“The increase of firearms at checkpoints is a function of an individual gun owner’s lack of responsibility – be it forgetfulness or a misguided belief that weapons will not be discovered,” said Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport General Manager Balram Bheodari.
This comes as pandemic-era travel in the U.S. has seen a rise in unruly traveler behavior.
“It is paramount that the current crisis of assaults does not escalate even further to the point of gun violence,” said Greg Regan, president of Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO.
Lawmakers and witnesses at Tuesday’s hearing praised the “exceptional work” of TSA officers for detecting the firearms, but they also say it takes them away from focusing on other threats.
“These investigations shut down the checkpoint lane during the encounter, causing delays, as well as creating a stressful situation for TSA staff and travelers alike,” said Port of Portland Police Chief Jason Wallis.
Experts testifying recommend education outreach, including consistent and clear signage as well as precise communication from airlines to passengers.
Some also suggest increasing the penalty for a violation, which currently runs from $1,500 to nearly $14,000.
Airline passengers can travel with a firearm in checked baggage, though they must be unloaded and locked in a hard-sided container. Firearms and ammunition must also be declared when checking in at the ticket counter.