Air traffic is down, gun seizures up at US airports

FILE - A lone traveler heads to the north security checkpoint in the main terminal of Denver International Airport Wednesday, July 22, 2020, in Denver.  Air travel is down sharply during the pandemic, but airport screeners are finding guns at a much higher rate. And about 80% of those guns are loaded. The Transportation Security Administration appealed Monday, Aug. 10,  for travelers to pay attention the restrictions on traveling with guns.  (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
FILE - A lone traveler heads to the north security checkpoint in the main terminal of Denver International Airport Wednesday, July 22, 2020, in Denver. Air travel is down sharply during the pandemic, but airport screeners are finding guns at a much higher rate. And about 80% of those guns are loaded. The Transportation Security Administration appealed Monday, Aug. 10, for travelers to pay attention the restrictions on traveling with guns. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

With air traffic nearing a five-month high, airport security is finding guns in passenger carry-on bags at three times the rate recorded before the pandemic.

And 80% of the guns are loaded.

The discoveries at airports comes at a time when U.S. gun sales are surging, and analysts believe many of those purchases are being made by first-time buyers.

Officers seized just over 300 guns in July, or 15.3 guns for every million people screened, compared with 5.1 per million people in July of last year, the Transportation Security Administration said Monday.

TSA Administrator David Pekoske said there has been a significant increase in loaded guns at checkpoints. He said screeners are already working in conditions of heightened risks and that "no one should be introducing new ones.”

The number of loaded guns, Pekoske said, "is just an accident waiting to happen."

Background checks on gun buyers have been rising every month compared with a year earlier since April 2019, but they picked up even faster this year. The number of checks topped 3 million in four of the last five months. They had not exceeded 3 million in one month since December 2015.

FBI figures show that there were more than 3.6 million firearms background checks requested on buyers in July, a 79% increase from July 2019, following a 70% increase in June.