AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has already confiscated more firearms at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport this year compared to the same time last year. The agency says it found seven firearms this month at Austin’s security screening checkpoints, bringing the total so far this year to 47.
“This is a good opportunity to remind passengers that firearms are not allowed in carry-on bags, but can travel in checked bags, if declared to the airline and are unloaded and properly packed in a locked, hard-sided case,” says Mike Scott, TSA federal security director for Austin’s airport. Ammunition, firearm parts and realistic replicas also are not allowed in carry-on bags.
In September 2015, a new law went into effect that protect holders of concealed handgun licenses from being arrested if they have handgun in their bags going through security, as long as they immediately leave the area after screening.
Scott believes this law is leading to the increased number of guns they’re seeing. “I think that leads to people not packing carefully, sometimes not checking their bag when they leave the house, knowing what’s in it,” says Scott.
While it’s up to local enforcement to determine if a criminal charge is filed, the TSA does have the authority to levy a civil penalty of up to $11,000 against a passenger who brings a firearm to the checkpoint. The average penalty for a loaded firearm is $3,000, and $1,500 for an unloaded firearm.
In 2015, TSA at AUS confiscated 54 firearms at security checkpoints, up from 44 in 2014. Nationwide, TSA officers have found more than 2,200 firearms at airport checkpoints so far this year. In 2015, TSA found 2,653 firearms in carry-on bags at airports, which was a 20 percent increase over 2014.