Nearly twice as many people tried to carry a gun through security at a Montana airport in 2023. But officers with the Transportation Security Administration say while that's a concerning number, it actually mirrors the trend of more gun seizures in other states.

And it was Billings, not Missoula with the most firearms taken in Montana, even though Missoula had more passengers.

This week, TSA released its report on the number of guns officers found in travelers' carry-on luggage nationwide. In all, that was more than 6,542 guns, a rate of about 8.6 firearms for every million passengers who were screened. 

That works out to fine firearm for every 116,394 passengers who boarded a plane last year.

By comparison, just over 4,200 guns were taken out of carry-on luggage in 2018.

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The most guns were caught at Billings Logan International Airport.

TSA officers say the 17 firearms that were taken from Billings travelers was a new record for Montana, and nearly double the guns found in carry-on cargo in 2018. The largest single year-over-year increase was between 6 guns taken in 2020 and a dozen in 2021. 

Missoula Montana Airport was second with 11 firearms seized, even though there were 37,000 more passengers searched than in Billings. 7 firearms were located in 2018. 10 guns were found in luggage going through Bozeman, more than double 5 years ago. But that's from far more passengers. Over 1.1 million last year alone. 

Glacier Park International had the most dramatic increase, soaring from one seizure in 2018 to 7 last year. TSA agents in Great Falls found 5 firearms but had the highest ratio of guns per passenger screened. Helena is the only secured airport with no gun seizures. 

The rate in Montana mirrors the national trend

Regional TSA leaders warn gun owners they could face criminal, and civil penalties for bringing a firearm through carry-on luggage. That civil penalty is based on whether the gun was loaded, and if additional ammo was "accessible." 

"My hope is that highlighting this issue will serve as an incentive for gun owners to reacquaint themselves with the rules on traveling with a firearm on a commercial aircraft,” said TSA Federal Security Director for Montana Kc Wurtsbaugh. “And, for those who don’t follow the rules on traveling with a firearm, I am grateful for the TSA officers who work daily to screen all travelers and their carry-on property to ensure that no security threats make it into the cabin of an aircraft.”

For more information on the latest carry-on regulations, including restrictions, you can visit the "Can I Bring" feature on the TSA website or the TSA mobile app. Specific information about firearms can be found here. 

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