SALT LAKE CITY — The Transportation Security Administration announced Tuesday that 71 firearms were found in carry-on luggage at the Salt Lake City International Airport in 2020, and that firearms were found at twice the rate as in 2019.
That matches a trend seen throughout the country, the TSA said in a news release, where screening officers found firearms in 2020 at "the highest rate since the agency's inception."
In 2020, the TSA found 71 guns at SLC and 3,257 in carry-on bags nationwide. In raw numbers, that's down from 85 guns at SLC and 4,432 nationally in 2019; and 73 locally and 4,239 nationally in 2018.
However, air traffic at SLC in 2020 was only about 48% of its total the year before. Travelers flying out of Salt Lake City brought firearms in carry-on luggage at a rate of 16.8 guns per million travelers screened; the year before, it was only eight firearms per million screened.
Nationally, those rates were about 10 guns per million passengers in 2020 and five guns per million in 2019. Air traffic fell by 500 million passengers nationwide in 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Salt Lake City International Airport ranked 10th nationally for the number of firearms found in carry-ons in 2020. The Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport topped the list with 220 guns discovered, followed by Dallas/Fort Worth at 176 and George Bush Intercontinental Airport, in Houston, with 126.
Rounding out the top 10 were Phoenix Sky Harbor (124), Denver (104), Nashville (94), Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood (87), Orlando (79), and Las Vegas McCarran (72).
Grant Goodlett, the TSA's acting federal security director for Utah, said the agency "continues to ask travelers to carefully pack their carry-on bags to ensure that firearms are not brought to the security checkpoint."
"TSA officers continue to be focused during their screening duties to ensure that firearms — and other security threats — do not make it into the cabin of an aircraft," he said in the release.
Travelers found with guns in their carry-on luggage face "potential criminal citations" as well as "civil penalties." "TSA evaluates each firearm incident on a case-by-case basis," the release says, including whether the weapon was loaded and whether there was accessible ammunition.
In 2020, 83% of firearms found were loaded according to a TSA infographic.
Firearms can be transported on commercial flights, but only in checked luggage after being properly declared at the ticket counter during check-in. They must be unloaded and stored in a "locked, hard-sided case."
More specific TSA information about transporting firearms can be found at www.tsa.gov/travel/transporting-firearms-and-ammunition.