TAMPA, Fla. -- This week will bring some of the busiest travel days of the year., and it turns out at Tampa International Airport, there's a better chance than at other airports the person in line next to you hasn't just packed their bags.
They're packing heat.
Weapons seizures at TIA have hit record levels this year - 86 guns so far in 2017. That’s up substantially from the past two years when they confiscated 49 firearms in 2105 and 79 in 2016.
And frankly, airport officials have no idea what’s behind the increase other than more people arming themselves in general.
“There's nothing to attribute that to other then we have more people bringing firearms through the checkpoint here in Tampa. It's not a detection issue. It's just more people bring firearms to the airport here in Tampa,” said Lee Kair, federal security director for the Tampa Bay region.
The most common excuse TSA agents hear is that people forget they had stored a weapon in a bag or a coat, said Kair. Or they're just so used to carrying a gun they don't think about it.
“I mean, why do they have weapons in the first place?” asked TIA passenger Jeremy Becker.
“There's been a lot of bad things happening, so I can't really blame people. But they should know not to bring a weapon into the airport,” said passenger Emma Dauphin.
Still, it doesn't explain why Tampa, which sees far fewer travelers than, say, Miami or Orlando international airports - still has the most weapons. Tampa has 86. Orlando, 81, and Miami, 42.
This year at TIA, they had four weapon seizures in a single day.
There were several cases, said Kair, of multiple weapons confiscated from a single passenger.
They even had a repeat offender. A person charged a couple of years ago was arrested for doing it again this year.
“Same guy. Wow. That's crazy,” said passenger Scott Perlman. “Definitely, there's no excuses. Not in today's day and age.”
TSA hopes maybe a low-tech solution will help. A simple sign was installed at the Concourse C entrance a few weeks ago, reminding passengers before they get aboard the shuttle to the secure side that no weapons are allowed.
It turns out they’ve already seen fewer incidents there compared with the airport's other gates.
“So, I think people are seeing that sign, and saying, 'Oh yeah, I have that on me.' And heading back to their car,” said Kair.
Which is why they are intending discuss the idea of expanding the signage to other gates with airport officials after the Thanksgiving holiday.
By the way, bringing a gun through TSA can get you jail time and fine of up to $12,000.
TSA says there is a safe way to travel with a gun. Passengers just need to notify the airline, have the weapon locked in a hard-sided case, and then put it in their checked baggage - not a carry-on.