Security screeners at airports nationwide discovered a record number of firearms and unusual items in carry-on bags last year — including a grenade found in a bag in Las Vegas.
At least the grenade was inoperative.
In 2018, 4,239 firearms were discovered in passengers’ luggage at security checkpoints at 249 different airports, a 7 percent increase over 2017’s total, data released Thursday by the Transportation Security Administration revealed.
“Passengers are bringing them (firearms) to airports in higher numbers,” said TSA spokesperson Lori Dankers. “Officers are pretty good at finding them in the X-ray.”
TSA officers discovered 59 firearms at McCarran International Airport during routine security screenings of departing passengers’ carry-on luggage last year. Bucking the national trend, the number is a slight drop from 2017, when TSA officers at McCarran discovered 62 firearms.
The report highlighted a handful of unusual items discovered at airports, including the inert grenade discovered in a carry-on bag Nov. 27 at McCarran.
Although the grenade was inactive, the discovery of such items can lead to airport complications.
When a grenade — whether real or inert — or other possible explosive device is discovered, all screening stops at that location until a TSA explosive expert inspects the item. Even inert grenades can lead to closed terminals and checkpoints, which can result in delayed or cancelled flights, according to the TSA.
In the Las Vegas case, Dankers said, experts were able to determine the grenade was inert fairly quickly, avoiding a long-term shutdown of the security area.
“Explosive devices remain the biggest threat to aviation,” she said. “There’s other items as well, and our officers are looking to keep those out of the cabins in our aircrafts.”
Other potentially dangerous items discovered by TSA agents include:
—Three smoke grenades Nov. 19 in a checked bag at Nashville International Airport.
—A bottle of lighter fluid Dec. 12 in a carry-on bag at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.
—Fireworks Dec. 13 in the carry-on bag at Orlando International Airport.
—Five replica mortar shells Dec. 1 in a checked bag at Orlando International Airport.
The grenade found at McCarran is the latest in a list of unusual items found at the Las Vegas airport.
In 2017, TSA agents discovered a throwing star in a carry-on bag and a replica rifle umbrella. In 2015, a live purple smoke bomb was found in a bag. In 2012, keychains with bullets attached — given out as souvenirs at the SHOT Show — were confiscated from several travelers.
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. They are not permitted in carry-on luggage, even if a traveler has a concealed weapon permit.
Ammunition and firearm parts, including firearm frames, receivers, clips and magazines, are also prohibited in carry-on baggage and must be checked.
In addition to being fined, passengers caught with prohibited items could face legal action, which is at the discretion of each law enforcement agency.
If a passenger brings a firearm to a security checkpoint, the TSA will levy a civil penalty as high as $10,000. The average penalty is around $950, Dankers said.
“It’s an expensive mistake,” she said. “Oftentimes you may lose the firearm and you are delayed and may miss your flight.”
Firearms found at McCarran