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Firearms in airports broke a TSA record in 2023. Phoenix Sky Harbor had one of the highest totals

The TSA intercepted a record number of firearms at the nation’s airports in 2023, detecting more than 6,700. That includes 235 at Phoenix’s Sky Harbor Airport, which had one of the highest totals in the U.S. Officials say 93% of the guns found at security checkpoints nationwide were loaded.

TSA spokesperson Patricia Mancha said it is a “constant challenge” to address firearm policies.

“We continue to try to educate the community. But at some point it really comes to traveler responsibility. Travelers should be aware of what they can and cannot bring to the airport," she said.

Mancha said the TSA's job is safety.

“We want to prevent an incident on a plane. We want to prevent anyone from causing harm to others. And part of that is ensuring that people are not allowed to bring items that they can use to harm travelers," she said.

Mancha said it’s difficult to “pinpoint” why people bring more firearms to airports but said officials suspect lax gun laws in certain states could have some connection. 

When TSA finds firearms at security checkpoints, the weapons aren’t confiscated. But local police are called, and that may lead to an arrest or citation.

In addition to any local penalties, passengers caught with a firearm at a TSA checkpoint face a fine of up to $15,000.

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Ignacio Ventura is a reporter for KJZZ. He graduated from the University of Southern California with a bachelor’s degree in creative writing and a minor in news media and society.