Gun seizures at Chattanooga Airport jump at fastest rate of all major Tennessee airports

Staff File Photo by Olivia Ross  / Firearms are not allowed through TSA checkpoints. All firearms must be unloaded, stored in a locked container and declared at ticketing.
Staff File Photo by Olivia Ross / Firearms are not allowed through TSA checkpoints. All firearms must be unloaded, stored in a locked container and declared at ticketing.

The 29 firearms seized at Lovell Field so far in 2022 mark a threefold increase from five years ago, the steepest increase of any of the five major airports in Tennessee.

All five major airports in Tennessee set all-time highs for firearms seizures, the Transportation Security Administration said in a Tuesday news release.

The Chattanooga Airport's increase marks a 222% increase from nine seizures five years ago, but the airport remains on the low end of confiscations at airfields statewide.

In firearms seizures over the past five years, the Nashville International Airport experienced a 140% increase from 86 to 206; Memphis International Airport had a 68% increase from 47 to 79; McGhee-Tyson Airport near Knoxville increased almost 94% from 16 to 31; and the Tri-Cities Airport between Kingsport and Johnson City had a 100% increase from four to eight, according to the TSA.

That totals 353 firearms confiscated at security checkpoints to date in 2022 in Tennessee. Each of the firearms was found during the routine screening of carry-on property, officials said.

Albert Waterhouse, spokesman for the Chattanooga Airport, said Tuesday by phone local officials couldn't comment on the federal report.

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Nationally, the trend continued as 4,239 seizures in 2018 swelled to more than 6,300 in 2022, according to TSA.

In addition to potential criminal citations, travelers face civil penalties for bringing firearms to the security checkpoint, and TSA evaluates each firearm incident on a case-by-case basis, according to officials. Among the factors TSA considers when determining the civil penalty amount includes whether the firearm was loaded and whether there was accessible ammunition.

The civil penalty can go up to a maximum of nearly $15,000 per violation, the TSA said, and even if a traveler has a concealed weapons permit, firearms are not permitted in carry-on luggage.

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In addition to civil penalties, people who violate rules regarding traveling with firearms will have Trusted Traveler status and TSA PreCheck expedited screening benefits revoked for a period of time, the release states. The duration of the disqualification will depend upon the seriousness of the offense and if there is a repeated history of violations.

Firearms can be transported on a commercial aircraft only if they are unloaded, packed in a locked, hard-sided case and placed in checked baggage, according to the TSA. Additionally, any type of replica firearm is prohibited in carry-on baggage and must be transported in checked luggage.

The TSA offered some travel tips for passengers with firearms.

At the airport during the check-in process, a passenger must go to the airline ticket counter to declare the firearm, ammunition and any firearm parts, TSA officials said. Prior to traveling, passengers are encouraged to check gun laws and regulations at their destination to make certain they are in compliance with local and state laws there.

TSA also recommends travelers check with their airline prior to their flight to ensure they comply with any airline-specific requirements. TSA can provide additional traveler information specifically related to the transportation of firearms and ammunition, and a full summary of TSA's civil penalties for prohibited items is also available.

Travelers can use the "Can I Bring?" feature on the TSA website or on the TSA mobile app, myTSA, officials said in the release. Travelers can also Tweet or Message "@AskTSA" if they have a travel question or are unsure if an item is allowed through security in a carry-on bag. Just snap a picture or send a question and get real-time assistance weekdays from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. EST, according to officials.

Contact Ben Benton at or 423-757-6569. Follow him on Twitter @BenBenton.

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