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141 firearms found in carry-on luggage at DIA last year, TSA says

The Denver airport ranked sixth nationally for the number of firearms found at security checkpoints.

DENVER — Denver International Airport (DIA) ranked sixth nationally last year in the number of firearms found in carry-on luggage at security checkpoints, the Transportation and Security Administration (TSA) said Tuesday.

TSA officers found 141 guns in carry-ons at DIA in 2021, which the agency said set a record for the Denver airport. Nationwide, the TSA found 5,972 firearms at 269 airports, according to a news release.

TSA screened about 18.3 million passengers and crew members at DIA last year, which was an 72% increase over 2020. That comes out to between 7 and 8 guns per 1 million people who went through screening.

DIA was the sixth-busiest airport for TSA security checkpoint screening in 2021, the agency said.

The number of firearms at DIA was up significantly from 104 found in 2020, when passenger traffic dropped due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Officials found 140 firearms in 2019 and 126 in 2018, according to the TSA.

The firearms were found during routine X-ray screening of carry-on luggage, the agency said.

RELATED: 104 firearms found in carry-on luggage at DIA in 2020, TSA says

DIA wasn't the only major airport to set a record for the number of firearm discoveries. Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport topped the list with 507 finds – the most ever recorded at any airport since the creation of the TSA, according to the release.

“As the data suggests, travelers bringing firearms in carry-on luggage is not new and we have now reached an unacceptable level of carelessness by gun owners," said Larry Nau, TSA federal security director for Colorado, in the release. "Simply stated, one gun in carry-on luggage is one too many."

Nau asked gunowners learn the procedures for traveling with firearms and to be aware of what's in their carry-on luggage before they go to the airport.

The airports where TSA found the most firearms last year were:

  1. Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport: 507
  2. Dallas Fort Worth International Airport: 317
  3. George Bush Intercontinental Airport (Houston): 245
  4. Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport: 196
  5. Nashville International Airport: 163

Travelers need to declare firearms, ammunition and firearms parts at the airline ticket counter during the check-in process. Firearms can be transported on commercial aircraft only if they are unloaded; packed in a locked, hard-sided case, and placed in checked baggage, TSA said.

TSA evaluates firearm incidents on a case-by-case basis. Travelers who violate firearm rules can face potential criminal citations as well as civil penalties for bringing a firearm to a security checkpoint.

RELATED: DIA offers booster shots for employees, passengers

RELATED: Denver council OKs $1.1B to complete DIA’s Great Hall Project by 2028

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