TSA breaks record for firearm discoveries at Denver International Airport and nationally in 2021

DEN ranks sixth among airports nationwide for firearms found in carry-on luggage
Local Press Release
Tuesday, January 18, 2022

DENVER - Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officers at Denver International Airport (DEN) discovered 141 firearms in travelers’ carry-on luggage in 2021, setting a new record for firearm finds at DEN’s three security checkpoints. Every one of these firearms was discovered during the routine X-ray screening of carry-on property. Nationwide last year, TSA officers found 5,972 firearms at 268 different airports.

Below is a summary of TSA firearm discoveries locally and nationally for the past four years:





DEN totals:





National totals:





DEN ranked sixth nationally for the number of firearm discoveries by TSA officers in 2021. Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport topped the list with 507 firearm finds, the most ever recorded at any airport since the inception of TSA. Dallas Fort Worth International Airport came in second with 317 followed by Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport with 245; Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport with 196; and Nashville International Airport with 163.

“As the data suggests, travelers bringing firearms in carry-on luggage is not new and we have now reached an unacceptable level of carelessness by gun owners. Simply stated, one gun in carry-on luggage is one too many,” said TSA Federal Security Director for Colorado Larry Nau. “We are asking all gun owners to take a few minutes to reacquaint yourself with the procedures for traveling with firearms and the importance of being aware of everything you transport in your carry-on luggage before you come to the airport. Even if a traveler has a concealed weapons permit, firearms are never permitted in carry-on luggage. TSA officers will continue to screen for weapons and other potential security threats to ensure those item do not make it into the cabin of an aircraft.”

In 2021, TSA screened approximately 585 million passengers and crew at airports nationwide. That figure represents a 44% increase over the 339 million screened in 2020.

At DEN, TSA screened approximately 18.3 million departing passengers and crew in 2021, making it the sixth busiest airport for TSA security checkpoint screening operations. By comparison, TSA screened 10.6 million departing travelers at DEN in 2020. The 2021 figure represents at 72% increase over 2020 passenger volumes.

In addition to potential criminal citations for bringing a firearm in carry-on luggage, travelers face civil penalties. Among the factors TSA considers when determining the civil penalty amount include whether the firearm was loaded and whether there was accessible ammunition. Even if a traveler has a concealed weapons permit, firearms are not permitted in carry-on luggage.

Individuals 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 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. Any type of replica firearm is prohibited in carry-on baggage and must be transported in checked luggage.

At the airport during the check-in process, a passenger needs to go to the airline ticket counter to declare the firearm, ammunition and any firearm parts. Prior to traveling, passengers are encouraged to check gun laws and regulations at their destination to ensure they are in compliance with local and state laws. TSA also recommends travelers check with their airline prior to their flight to ensure they comply with any airline-specific requirements.

TSA has additional traveler information specifically related to the transportation of firearms and ammunition. A full summary of TSA’s civil penalties for prohibited items is also available.

TSA reminds passengers to be aware of the contents of their carry-on bag prior to coming to the security checkpoint. TSA has multiple resources available to passengers to help them determine whether an item is permitted in carry-on baggage, checked baggage or not at all.

Travelers can use the “Can I Bring?” feature on the TSA website or on the TSA mobile app, myTSA. 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 daily from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. MST.

Earlier today, TSA released a summary of its top 21 accomplishments in 2021, highlighting vigilance, agility and innovation.