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TSA: Record number of guns found at Memphis International Airport this year already

A spokesperson with the TSA said with Tennessee's new open carry law, more travelers are forgetting to leave their guns at home.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officers at Memphis International Airport discovered a loaded firearm at a security checkpoint Sunday, bringing the total detected at the airport to a record 68 this year.

At approximately 6 a.m. Sunday, a loaded Ruger LCP .380 handgun was found in a passenger’s personal belongings. TSA officers notified local law enforcement, who removed the firearm and the passenger from the checkpoint area.

The previous annual record for Memphis was 67 guns, set in 2021.

RELATED: TSA finds loaded guns at all major Tennessee airports last week

TSA spokesperson Mark Howell told ABC24 while there aren't exact figures available comparing the number of guns found to total passengers screened, the rate at which guns are found at the Memphis airport is one of the highest in the nation, three and a half times greater than the national average on a per passenger basis.

“Since the implementation of new gun laws in the state last year, we’ve seen a significant increase in the number of firearms brought to Tennessee security checkpoints,” said Kevin McCarthy, TSA Deputy Federal Security Director for Tennessee. “While the actual number of firearms discovered at Memphis checkpoints doesn’t compare to the numbers seen at some of the larger airports in the country - on a per passenger basis, our officers detect firearms at a rate three and a half times greater than the national average.”

McCarthy said it's critical passengers who are gun owners double check their luggage before arriving to the airport and taking carry on bags through the checkpoints.

"Every person we've encountered said, 'I didn't know it was there' or 'I forgot it was there,'" McCarthy said. "No one has said, 'I came in with the intent to bring a gun through the check point', so that really keys into people really need to know what's in their bags. So we recommend people essentially pack from scratch. Completely empty your bag, start packing with nothing in it, and so we'll avoid these instances that we are talking about."

McCarthy said of the guns found in MEM this year, 84% of them were loaded and 44% of them had a round in the chamber.

RELATED: Opinion | Tennessee’s new permitless carry law is a major league headache for Memphis police | Otis Sanford

TSA is reminding travelers while firearms may be transported in checked baggage (provided they are declared to the airline, in a proper carrying case and unloaded), they are prohibited in carry-on bags.

In addition to potential criminal charges, passengers who bring firearms to a checkpoint face civil penalties from TSA.

For information on the proper way to travel with a firearm, visit here.

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