BILLINGS - More passengers are illegally packing firearms at Montana airports.
New numbers released Wednesday by the Transportation Security Administration are showing all-time records for guns found in carry-on luggage in Montana.
TSA has a message for travelers: Stop packing firearms in your carry-on luggage. Statewide, travelers through Billings Logan International Airport were the biggest culprits.
"The rate at 4 of the 5 airports (in Montana) is actually greater than what we see at the national level in terms of the number of firearms discovered. And so we’re trying to bring attention to this to let people who want to travel with their firearm to let them know not to bring it in their carry-on luggage and instead to pack in properly," said Lorie Danker, a TSA spokeswoman.
It's a nationwide trend, and the TSA says that's not okay with federal authorities.
"It is never permissible to bring your firearm in your carry-on luggage to the security checkpoint. Firearms are never allowed in the cabin of the aircraft. What is permitted is that you place your firearm in a hard-sided case, make sure it is unloaded, any ammunition is in original packaging, put it in that checked baggage, declare it to the airline, pick it up at your destination," Danker said.
Nationwide, 6,542 firearms showed up unlawfully at 262 airports in 2022, according to the TSA.
In Montana, the TSA found 50 firearms, with 17 of those in Billings, a new record for the airport. Other Montana airports that recovered guns: 11 in Missoula, 10 in Bozeman, 7 at Glacier Park International in Kalispell, and 5 in Great Falls.
That’s up from the 45 guns found in carry-on luggage in 2021. In 2018 just 28 firearms were found.
"Nationwide 88% of firearms brought to the checkpoint are loaded. And many of those have one in the chamber ready to shoot. TSA will levy a civil penalty against any traveler who brings a firearm to the checkpoint in carry-on luggage, those fines can be up to $15,000 per incident. People who have concealed weapons permits, they’ve taken the responsible step to have that, but it does not permit them to bring that gun into the security checkpoint," Danker said.
If you aren’t sure what to pack or where to pack it before you head to the airport, you can log onto Twitter, snap a pic and send it to @asktsa –and use the live chat feature to answer your questions. Click here for more information.