PBS and NPR for Southwest Florida
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Three SWFL airports set records in 2022 for passengers with guns

Guns at Checkpoints
Associated Press
Three Southwest Florida airports had record numbers of guns confiscated friom passengers at TSA checkpoints in 2022.

Three airports in Southwest Florida — Fort Myers, Punta Gorda and Sarasota-Bradenton — reported a record number of guns confiscated from passengers in 2022.

The year-to-date number of 793 guns brought to the Transportation Security Administration’s checkpoints at Florida airports is already 19 percent higher than in any previous year and includes records set at 14 individual airports.

In Southwest Florida, TSA statistics show 46 guns at Southwest Florida International (RSW), 18 at Sarasota Bradenton International (SRQ) and 10 at Punta Gorda Airport (PGD), were confiscated. All these were records for each airport.

"Last year we stopped 39 guns (at RSW), which was at that time the highest number ever. and the holiday travel season is not over yet obviously," Sari Koshetz, a TSA regional media official, said.

Across the rest of the state, the largest number of guns TSA officers have had to intercept were: 151 guns at Orlando International Airport (MCO), 127 guns at Ft. Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL), 120 guns at Tampa International (TPA), 91 guns at Miami International (MIA), 67 guns at Jacksonville International Airport (JAX), 29 at Palm Beach International (PBI), and 28 at Pensacola International (PNS).

The 14 airports which have set a local record are MCO, TPA, MIA, JAX, RSW, Destin-Fort Walton Beach Airport (VPS) with 25, St. Pete-Clearwater International (PIE) with 18, Tallahassee International (TLH) with 15, Gainesville Regional Airport (GNV) with 11, Daytona Beach International (DAB) with eight, Melbourne Orlando International (MLB) with six, and Key West International (EYW) with five.

Nearly every one of these guns was loaded and most had ammunition chambered.

“An accidental discharge could result in tragedy,” said Koshetz. “Every passenger bears the responsibility of knowing exactly where their gun is before entering the federal security checkpoint and that must not be on their person or in their carry-on.”

“Every passenger bears the responsibility of knowing exactly where their gun is before entering the federal security checkpoint and that must not be on their person or in their carry-on.”
Sari Koshetz, Transportation Security Administration

Many of these passengers were arrested or issued notices to appear in court.

Passengers face a civil penalty from the TSA that can reach more than $14,000 and that is imposed regardless of whether the individual is arrested by TSA’s law enforcement partners. If the traveler is in the TSA PreCheck program, those privileges will be lost for a period of time, possibly permanently.

“If you are going to travel with your gun it must be in your checked bag, but be sure you know exactly what the gun laws are on each side of your trip or you may be heading to jail instead of to your family’s holiday gathering,” Koshetz added. “Guns may not be legal to transport even in checked baggage in some jurisdictions.”

Other airports in the state where guns were intercepted in the checkpoints are Orlando Sanford International (SFB) with seven guns and Northwest Florida Beaches International (ECP) with 14 guns.

“While these two are not record numbers at this time, any number over zero is a dangerous number,” Koshetz added. “Passenger volumes rise rapidly in the last few weeks of the year and gun numbers egregiously rise with them.”

Every year FLL, TPA and MCO are typically in the top 10 or 11 airports across the country for passengers violating federal law by bringing guns to the TSA checkpoints.

Five tips for getting through the TSA checkpoint:

Tip 1: No guns in carry-ons. Firearms must be in checked baggage. All firearms must be properly packed and declared to the airline at check-in, which means unloaded and in a locked, hard-sided case. Contact your airline for additional guidance. And it is your responsibility to know what the gun laws are on both sides of your trip.

Tip 2: Leave all prohibited items at home. To reduce the likelihood of a bag search at the checkpoint, search your own bag before leaving home. Unsure if it’s allowed: use the “What Can I Bring?” link on TSA.gov.

Tip 3: Prepare for the security checkpoint. Have a valid ID card readily available. Follow the liquids, gels and aerosols 3-1-1 rule of 3.4 ounces or less for each item and the items should be placed in a one-quart-sized bag, one per passenger, if you are traveling with a carry-on bag. Also empty your pockets into your carry-on rather than into a bin.

Tip 4: Help is available. Get live assistance by tweeting your questions to @AskTSA in English or Spanish or via Facebook Messenger. You can also call the TSA Contact Center at 866-289-9673.

Tip 5: Enroll now in TSA PreCheck. Travel with ease by enrolling in TSA PreCheck and avoid removing shoes, belts, liquids, laptops and light jackets. Most new enrollees receive a known traveler number within five days, and membership lasts for five years.

WGCU is your trusted source for news and information in Southwest Florida. We are a nonprofit public service, and your support is more critical than ever. Keep public media strong and donate now. Thank you.