Phoenix’s Sky Harbor airport seized record number of guns in 2023 | Phoenix New Times
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Sky Harbor seized record number of guns from passengers in 2023

The Phoenix airport ranked fourth among the Top 10 airports for guns. Most of them were loaded.
Transportation Security Administration officers seized a record number of firearms at security checkpoints in 2023, including 235 at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport.
Transportation Security Administration officers seized a record number of firearms at security checkpoints in 2023, including 235 at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. Spencer Platt/Getty Images
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Flush with foot traffic reaching pre-pandemic levels, the Phoenix airport now faces a new problem: passengers packing heat.

Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport set a new record in 2023 for firearms seized at security checkpoints, making it fourth among the Top 10 airports in the U.S. for finding guns. In 2022, Sky Harbor ranked fifth.

The 235 firearms seized at Sky Harbor last year were among 6,737 guns snagged in carry-on bags across 265 airports, according to figures released Wednesday by the federal Transportation Security Administration. It’s the highest one-year total in the 22-year history of TSA and the highest total for Sky Harbor in at least five years.

At Sky Harbor, 223 of the confiscated guns were loaded, 11 were not loaded, and the status of one of the weapons was unknown, according to TSA.

“We are still seeing far too many firearms at TSA checkpoints, and what’s particularly concerning is the amount of them loaded, presenting an unnecessary risk to everyone at the TSA checkpoint,” TSA Administrator David Pekoske said in a prepared statement.

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport topped the list of airports with the most guns seized at 451, three more than in 2022. Dallas Fort Worth International Airport had 378 firearms, with Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport at third with 311. The Atlanta, Dallas and Houston airports ranked in the same order in 2022.

Others in the Top 10: Nashville International Airport (188), Denver International Airport (178), Orlando International Airport (164), Tampa International Airport (144), Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (135) and Dallas Love Field (125).

In 2022, 196 guns were seized at Sky Harbor — the same as 2021.

Firearms and ammunition are a no-no in carry-ons, though unloaded guns are allowed if packed in a locked case in checked baggage and declared to the airline at the check-in counter, Pekoske noted. Passengers with guns can face arrest by Phoenix police and a civil fine from TSA of up to $15,000

In 2023, TSA said it screened more than 858 million people, which means the agency found 7.8 firearms per million passengers. In 2022, it was 8.6 per million passengers.

The Phoenix airport enjoyed a banner year in 2023, with passenger traffic on track to surpass 2022 totals. Bobby Flay brought his burgers to Terminal 4. Guy Fieri is on the way. The PHX Sky Train expanded. And the Wall Street Journal named Sky Harbor the nation’s top large airport.

But the airport also faced a steady stream of labor issues last year, from complaints of hellish working conditions and rats to several pickets and even a strike.
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