The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) detected a record number of guns at airports in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area in 2021. 

Last year, TSA officers found 72 firearms at Baltimore Washington International-Thurgood Marshall Airport, Ronald Reagan National Airport, and Dulles International Airport — a surge from 30 firearms in 2020 and a smaller climb from 60 firearms in 2019. 

In two instances near the end of 2021, two men were arrested within a four-day span at Reagan National Airport for having handguns and ammunition in their carry-on bags. One of the men had 116 bullets in his carry-on, and the other had his firearm loaded with six bullets. 

And on Feb. 1, TSA cited another man at Reagan for having a loaded handgun with one bullet in the chamber. TSA stated in a press release that it’s the fifth time this year they’ve detected guns at Reagan’s checkpoints. 

The increase in these kinds of events corroborates a nationwide trend. TSA announced that officers found a record number of guns throughout 2021 — nearly 6,000 firearms, totaling a rate of 10.2 guns per million passengers. The rise follows an upward trend over the last decade. 

“On behalf of the dedicated TSA officers of DCA ensuring all passengers are safe flying from Reagan Airport, I want to be crystal clear,” Scott T. Johnson, TSA’s Federal Security Director for Reagan National Airport, stated in a press release. “You cannot bring a gun onto a flight—not loaded or unloaded, not locked, not even if you have a concealed carry permit.” 

At airports across the country, passengers are permitted to bring their firearms only under certain requirements. Guns must be unloaded in locked containers and declared as checked baggage, according to TSA

Failure to comply with these requirements could result in fines ranging from $4,100 to nearly $14,000. 

While the increase in guns caught by TSA doesn’t necessarily imply foul play, loaded guns made up about 86% of the total firearms detected nationwide at checkpoints in 2021, according to a TSA press release.

Source: Transportation Security Administration

Airports with the highest number of firearm detections are not only the busiest in the country but are also usually found in states with the highest levels of gun ownership. 

In Georgia, for example, about 39% of adults own firearms, according to data collected by RAND Corporation. And Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport — the busiest airport in the country, according to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) — saw 507 gun detections throughout 2021. 

In Maryland, only about 21% of adults own firearms, according to RAND. Baltimore-Washington Thurgood Marshall International, the 26th busiest airport in the country according to FAA data, only saw 23 gun detections in 2021. 

Nationwide, more people have attempted to purchase guns in recent years. The National Shooting Sports Foundation reported that in 2020 over 8.4 million people bought a firearm for the first time. That same year, a record 21 million background checks were conducted, the foundation stated. 

This story was oringally published on

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