Bad news for nervous flyers: airport security officials saw a spike in the number of firearms that travelers tried to pass through security checkpoints in US airports. The majority were loaded.
In a year-end review, the US Transportation Security Administration (TSA) reported that security officials found 2,653 firearms in travelers’ carry-on luggage in 2015, up 20% from 2014, of which 83% were also loaded.
That may sound like cause for alarm but, as the Los Angeles Times points out, it could just mean that more people are traveling. According to its report, the TSA screened 40 million more passengers in 2015 than the year before. Alternatively, the uptick in firearms discovered might actually mean things are looking for the beleaguered agency—perhaps TSA agents are actually catching more firearms than they have in previous years.
Over the past six months, the TSA has come under fire over and over for gaps in its security procedures. Last June, an internal investigation by the TSA found that security officials failed to stop weapons and explosives coming in through security checkpoints in 67 out 70 trial run by undercover TSA agents. In response, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) launched a review of the security agency’s screening and testing procedures, as well as their equipment. The TSA’s acting administrator, Melvin Carraway, also resigned.
That wasn’t the end of the TSA’s troubles; days later, the DHS found that 73 TSA workers allegedly had ties to terrorist organizations.
At a congressional hearing in November 2015, the new TSA head Peter Neffenger answered questions about what one congressman called their “universal and disappointing” gaps in security. Neffenger responded: “There is no fixing it. There is addressing the challenges, learning from what you’ve addressed, testing yourself, learning from those tests, and continuous improvement as you go forward.”