Number of guns discovered in airports rising, TSA figures show

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LOS ANGELES — A deadly shooting at a security checkpoint at Los Angeles International Airport underlines the presence of unauthorized guns in U.S. airports.

A gunman opened fire Friday at a checkpoint at LAX, killing a TSA agent.

TSA checkpoint officers are not armed. The agency screens about 1.8 million passengers and their luggage every day for firearms and other prohibited items. The number of guns seized by the TSA at airports around the country has been on the rise since 2007. The agency seized 1,556 guns in 2012, nearly double the 803 guns confiscated in 2007, according to agency figures. Through the end of September, the agency has seized 1,343 guns this year.

There can be criminal penalties for travelers who bring firearms to TSA security checkpoints, whether it’s intentional or not, and the TSA may impose civil penalties of up to $11,000, according to TSA spokesman Ross Feinstein, writing via e-mail earlier this week.

This week alone, 29 firearms were discovered at TSA checkpoints, according to a TSA blog post published Friday. Of those, 27 were loaded. None of the guns logged by the agency through Thursday was discovered at the Los Angeles airport, the site of Friday’s shooting.

The gunman approached a checkpoint at Terminal 3 at 9:30 a.m. and began shooting at the TSA agent, according to a former ranking Los Angeles Police Department officer who was at the scene. The gunman is in custody.

The Los Angeles airport is the sixth busiest in the world based on total passengers (63.7 million) and third busiest in the world based on total number of takeoffs and landings (698,619 movements), according to Airports Council International’s 2012 World Airport Traffic Report.

The shooting was not the first at the airport. In 2002, an Egyptian national killed two people and wounded four others at the ticket counter of Israel’s El Al Airlines before a security guard shot and killed him.

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