A Philadelphia man who was found with a loaded handgun at a New Jersey airport over the weekend was the 11th person this year to have been caught trying to travel with a firearm.
That's the same number of guns found at Newark International Airport in 2019, but air travels have significantly dropped this year, according to the Transportation Security Administration for New Jersey.
“Passenger volume has been much lower this year as a result of the pandemic, and to tie the number of guns caught last year with two and one-half months remaining in this current calendar year is stunning,” said Thomas Carter, TSA’s Federal Security Director for New Jersey, said in a news release.
Just in Newark, the number of passengers decreased by 70 to 85% since COVID-19 began spreading around March.
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Authorities say the Pennsylvania man was in possession of a .40 caliber handgun loaded with seven bullets in Terminal on Saturday. TSA officers found the firearm in the man's backpack after it entered the checkpoint X-ray machine.
"It's a sad statement about the number of people trying to bring their guns onto airplanes," Carter said.
Earlier this year, TSA said agents across the United States found more firearms than ever before in the agency’s 18-year history --- and the number nationwide has been increasing for the past several years.
Officers around the country found 4,432 guns in 2019, compared to 4,239 guns in 2018 and 926 guns in 2008.
The majority of guns found last year were in Newark with 11, JFK had eight, Laguardia had seven and Long Island had one.
While traveling with a firearm isn't strictly prohibited, people are only allowed to carry unloaded guns (packed in a hard case, locked and kept separate from ammunition) in their checked baggage, according to the TSA.