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The Number Of Guns Seized At KCI Is Rising But No One Is Sure Why

Julie Denesha
KCUR 89.3
The number of guns seized is on the rise at KCI and at other airports around the nation.

In 2019, 67 guns were seized at security checkpoints at Kansas City International Airport. That is just one shy of the record set in 2017.

But seven years ago that number was just 14. Last year, according to the federal Transportation Security Administration, 48 firearms were discovered by screeners.

Why the increase?

"We're screening more people than ever before," TSA spokesman Mark Howell told KCUR.

To him, it is a matter of simple math: "More guns, plus more people traveling, equals more guns at airports."

Through November 2019, the latest numbers available on the KCI website, some 10.8 million people got on and off of planes at the airport. That is the same number of passengers in all of 2018 but a little below passenger traffic in 2017 and 2016.

KCI is following a national trend when it comes to seized guns. According to aTSA blog this month, "4,432 firearms were found at airport security checkpoints in 2019." That is an increase 5% from last year and works out to about a dozen guns a day seized from passengers.

"Well, most of them don't even know that they're doing it," said Howell. "The excuse we get is, 'Oops, I forgot it was in my bag.'"

But a loaded gun on an airplane is trouble.

"Because most of these guns that our diligent officers have intercepted are loaded — many with ammunition chambered — this trend could have tragic results," Sari Koshetz, a TSA spokeswoman said in an email.

While TSA crows about how many guns it prevents from getting on planes, the agency has been criticized in the past for how many weapons get by screeners.

"For example, in 2017, the Department of Homeland Security Inspector General identified deficiencies in TSA screener performance," according to a GAO report last April.

In a follow-up report, the GAO said TSA is getting better at both screenings and testing its screeners for problems.

TSA says there are legal ways totravel with your gun. But if you forget, you're facing a fine of up to $13,000 and a possible arrest.

Sam Zeff is KCUR's Metro Reporter. Follow him on Twitter @SamZeff.

You deserve to know what your taxpayer dollars are paying for and what public officials are doing on your behalf – I’ll work to report on irresponsible government spending in the Kansas City area and shed light on controversies that slow government down. And when you hear my voice in the morning, you know you’re getting everything you need to start your day. Email me at sam@kcur.org, find me on Twitter @samzeff or call me at 816-235-5004.
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