More and more passengers have been attempting to board flights with loaded weapons in their carry-on bags, purses and pockets, according to the Transportation Security Administration.
In the first six months of 2013, the TSA confiscated 894 guns found on passengers or in their luggage — a 30 percent increase from the same period in 2012. In May, the TSA set a record for the number of guns found in one week: 65 guns, 45 of which were loaded, and 15 with bullets in the chamber. The number broke the record of 50 guns, set two weeks earlier.
At this rate, the number of guns confiscated this year will easily surpass the 1,549 collected in last year.
TSA spokesman David Castelveter told the Associate Press that officials did not keep gun confiscation statistics before 2011, but in recent years they have noticed a spike in the numbers.
Castelveter said the most common excuse TSA hears from these passengers is, "I forgot it was there."
In March, a passenger at Bradley Hartford International Airport in Connecticut was found with a loaded .38-caliber pistol strapped to his left leg. A passenger in Salt Lake City International had a gun in the boot on the end of a prosthetic leg.
"We don't analyze the behavioral traits of people who carry weapons," Castelveter said. "We're looking for terrorists. But sometimes you have to scratch your head and say, 'Why?'"
Rarely are those stopped for carrying a gun through security people who work in law enforcement, the military or security.
Some of the passengers are arrested depending on gun laws in the area where the airport is situated. If the area is gun friendly, the TSA screener will give the firearm back and suggest the passenger lock it in his or her vehicle.
A .45-caliber pistol was found hidden in the lining of a carry-on bag in Charlotte, N.C. It appears that some of these seizures take place when a hidden firearm is found. One passenger had a gun designed to look like a pen and denied it when Allentown, Pa., TSA screeners realized it was a gun. TSA screeners even found a .45 and magazine hidden in a cassette deck.
Robert Spitzer, a gun expert and professor at State University of New York-Cortland, claimed that to say "I forgot" is just an excuse, "just like somebody who walks out of a store with an unpaid-for item in their pocket. The first thing that person will say is, 'I forgot.' Do people forget sometimes? Sure they do. But are there also people who try to shoplift to get away with something? Sure there are, and I think that's no less true with guns."
About 85 percent of the guns found on passengers in 2012 were loaded and the most common firearm found was a .38-caliber pistol. The majority were taken from passengers in the south and western parts of the U.S. Airports in the state of Texas last year topped the list.
"There are some Americans who believe that there are no limits, that they not only have a constitutional but a God-given right to have a gun and 'By gosh, if I want to bring a gun on a plane I'm going to do it,'" Spitzer said.