Nashville International Airport ranks 5th in US for guns discovered at security

TSA warns passengers about stiff penalties
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Posted at 8:25 AM, Jan 19, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-19 10:13:03-05

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Last year at airports across the country, Transportation Security Administration officers found 5,972 guns during security screenings, breaking a record.

It's a number that eclipses totals from years past, and it's an issue even more pronounced in Tennessee.

Officers hear it all the time — people say they forgot they even had the gun until they get stopped at the checkpoint on the way to a flight.

In the Volunteer State, officers found guns at airports at a rate 2.5 times the national average last year.

They discovered 163 firearms in Nashville alone, ranking BNA fifth in the country for the most guns found at security, behind only Atlanta, Dallas (DFW), Houston (IAH) and Pheonix.

The Nashville airport doesn't make it into the top 25 for passenger volume.

TSA spokesperson Mark Howell says the numbers were higher in states that had gun-friendly laws, such as concealed carry and open carry.

Tennessee's constitutional carry law, which allows adults 21 and older to open carry, went into effect in July 2021.

"I think in states where you have open carry and concealed carry people get used to taking their firearm with them," Howell said. "It's kind of the routine in the morning. You got your wallet, you got your keys and you pick up your gun."

But an increasing number of passengers are finding themselves facing both law enforcement and TSA civil penalties that can reach up to $13,900 at the airport.

"You gotta flip that mindset when you're traveling. You can't bring that firearm to the security checkpoint," Howell said.

You are allowed to check a firearm in your luggage as long as it's unloaded, packed in a hard-sided case and declared with the airline first. The TSA has a page dedicated to how you can transport firearms on its website.

Howell says in almost every case, TSA pursues the civil penalty, which is mailed to the passenger later. They average more than $2,000 for an unloaded gun and more than $4,000 if the gun is loaded. The number increases for repeat offenders.

Officers say between 80 and 90% of guns they find are in fact loaded. That's why they immediately call law enforcement and remove the person and the weapon from the security line.

"It's a costly mistake," Howell said. And on top of everything else, it could also force you to miss your flight.

Staff at BNA released the following statement about the numbers:

"Nashville International Airport joins the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) in urging travelers to follow regulations regarding traveling with a firearm. Although the number of weapons retrieved at BNA increased last year, these findings reinforce the effectiveness of controls in place to ensure passenger safety. As TSA continues to oversee and manage the security screening process, BNA’s Public Safety Officers will continue their role in working with the agency once a weapon is discovered."