Packing heat

Austin-Bergstrom shoots onto list of airports with most guns discovered in 2018

Austin shoots onto list of airports with most guns discovered in 2018

Austin-Bergstrom International Airport airplane 2014
Many travelers say they forgot they're carrying a gun in their carry-on. Austin-Bergstrom International Airport/Facebook

Austin travelers attempted to fly locked and loaded in 2018. Austin-Bergstrom International Airport ranked eighth in the top 10 last year for the most firearms discovered in carry-on bags at airport security checkpoints, according to the Transportation Security Administration.

At ABIA, 93 guns were found by TSA agents in carry-on bags in 2018. Eighty-two percent of those guns were loaded (76). ABIA didn’t appear in the top 10 for 2017.

Federal law prohibits carrying a gun onto a commercial flight in the U.S.

In total, four Texas airports landed in the top 10. Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport came in second, behind Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, with 219 firearms found in carry-on bags in 2018 by agents working for the TSA, the federal agency reported. Eighty-eight percent of those guns (191) were loaded, TSA says.

DFW repeated its No. 2 ranking for firearm discoveries from 2017, TSA says. However, seven fewer guns were found last year compared with 2017. DFW, a major hub for American Airlines, is the fourth busiest airport in the U.S. as measured by passenger traffic.

Also in North Texas at Dallas Love Field, TSA agents recovered 89 guns from carry-on bags last year. Of those, 93 percent (83 guns) were loaded, according to TSA. Overall, Dallas Love Field ranked ninth for gun discoveries, down one spot from last year.

Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport ranked sixth, with 117 guns found in carry-on bags last year. Of those, 98 percent (115 guns) were loaded, TSA says.

For 2017, Bush Intercontinental held the No. 3 spot for gun discoveries at U.S. airports (142). The number of firearms found by TSA agents dropped 18 percent from 2017 to 2018.

Bush Intercontinental, a major hub for United Airlines, ranks as the ninth busiest airport in the U.S., as measured by passenger traffic.

Among all U.S. airports, TSA agents found a record-setting 4,329 guns in carry-on bags last year, up 7 percent from 2017. Of those firearms, 86 percent were loaded, TSA says.

TSA says you can carry an unloaded firearm when you’re flying on an airline, but only if it’s stored in a locked hard-sided container in a checked bag. Guns, loaded or unloaded, aren’t allowed in carry-on bags. Ammunition also must be kept only in checked bags.

“We strongly suggest travelers contact their airline for specific firearm and ammunition policies,” TSA says, “and check local laws related to the carrying and transport of firearms. If you plan to travel with your firearm, make sure you know the rules for packing it in your checked baggage.”

On its website, the Fort Worth-based Medlin Law Firm says it’s not unusual for a traveler to have simply forgotten that a legally owned gun is in his or her carry-on bag.

“For instance, consider a person that uses the same suitcase to go on different business trips,” the law firm says. “They may have packed their legally owned weapon with them to drive to a business meeting, and months later, forget that it is still in that suitcase as they head off to the airport for their next business meeting.”

For someone to be found guilty of unlawfully carrying a gun at an airport, he or she “must intentionally, knowingly or recklessly carry that weapon,” the firm says. Under that provision, many criminal charges in such cases are dismissed because the gun owner merely forgot the firearm was in a carry-on bag and did not mean to bring it aboard a plane, according to the firm.