LEXINGTON, Ky. — The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) discovered a total of 24 firearms at airport security checkpoints throughout the state of Kentucky between March and September 2020.

What You Need To Know

  • A total of 15 firearms found at Kentucky's three major airports

  • Passenger volume 60-90 percent lower than 2019

  • TSA reported incidents to local law enforcement

  • Crime is punishable by jail time and fine

During the six-month period, TSA officers at Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky found a total of 15 firearms. Five guns were detected at Louisville Muhammed Ali International Airport, along with another four at Blue Grass Airport in Lexington.

Each of the firearms was discovered in passenger carry-on bags. In each incident, TSA notified local law enforcement, who removed the passengers and the firearms from the checkpoint area.

A total of 44 firearms were detected during the same period in 2019, however, passenger volumes have ranged between 60-90 percent lower in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Even with much lower than normal passenger numbers, we continue to find firearms at a very high rate at security checkpoints,” said Ray Williams, TSA Federal Security Director for Kentucky. “Passengers must remember they’re responsible for the contents of bags and our advice is to thoroughly inspect all personal belongings to make sure there are no illegal or prohibited items before coming to the airport.”

While firearms may be transported in checked baggage – if they are declared to the airline, in a proper carrying case and unloaded – they are prohibited in carry-on bags.

“Security is the first concern of the TSA, and having these items in bags that are traveling with you on the aircraft is dangerous to other travelers and can be easily mistaken as an intentional attempt to bring a prohibited item onto an aircraft,” according to a press release from the TSA. 

In addition to potential criminal charges, passengers who bring firearms to a checkpoint face stiff financial civil penalties from TSA, such as civil penalties of up to $13,669 per violation per person. 

The high rate of firearms being detected in Kentucky is in line with the national trend. TSA officers detected firearms in carry-on bags at a rate three times higher this past July than the same month in 2019, though passenger volume is significantly lower. 

TSA officers detected 15.3 guns per million people in July compared to 5.1 guns per million people screened during July 2019 while screening about 75 percent fewer passengers in July 2020.

TSA said about 80 percent of the weapons it found at the airport security screenings were loaded. 

Visit www.tsa.gov/travel/security-screening/whatcanibring/all and www.tsa.gov/travel/transporting-firearms-and-ammunition for more information about TSA prohibited items.