TSA is intercepting thousands more firearms, but that’s good news!

According to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), in 2019, 4,432 firearms were found in carry-on luggage at airport security checkpoints. Dating back to 2014, that number jumps to more than 20,000 firearms and new research strongly suggests that number could actually have been even higher, as even more firearms may not have been detected. 

For this episode I am joined by Sheldon Jacobson from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, whose research in the INFORMS Journal on Applied Analytics, “Using Risk-based Security to Quantify the Number of Firearms Missed at Airport Security Checkpoints,” looks not only at the increased number of firearms found at security checkpoints over the past few years, but at the reasons behind this increase.

TSA officers now are detecting firearms at a rate three times that {of what} they did just a year ago. At the same time the passenger flow that we saw in July was 25% of what we had seen in 2019. What this tells us is that reducing TSA officer distraction works in improving their performance. And TSA PreCheck is a way to achieve this same effect with a larger pool of people being screened.

Interviewed this episode:

Sheldon Jacobson

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Jacobson received B.Sc. and M.Sc. degrees in mathematics from McGill University (in 1981 and 1983, respectively), and both a M.S. and a Ph.D. in operations research from Cornell University (in 1986 and 1988, respectively). Subsequently, he joined the faculty of the Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University in 1988, and then the Department of Industrial & Systems Engineering at Virginia Tech in 1993. In 1999, he joined the Department of Mechanical & Industrial Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, moving to the Department of Computer Science in 2006. From 2012 to 2014, he served as the Program Director for Operations Research at the National Science Foundation. He has served on the National Research Council’s Committee on Airport Passenger Screening: Backscatter X-Ray Machines (2013-2015) and the National Academy of Medicine’s Standing Committee for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Division of Strategic National Stockpile (2015-2017).