Cannonballs, Samurai Swords, Chastity Belts: An Inventory of the Items Found at TSA Checkpoints in 2012

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A year's worth of (weird, revealing, scary) data from the nation's airports

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A gun and accompanying ammunition, concealed -- but not well enough -- in stuffed animals (TSA)

The Transportation Safety Administration isn't merely a government agency. It is also a kind of real-time library, tracking the human folly that plays out at some of the human folly-est places there are: airports. The TSA has now released information from a year's worth of checkpoint-monitoring ... and the information it has presented is, unsurprisingly, folly-filled. (Among the objects confiscated from passengers: swords, bottles of gunpowder, and "more inert grenades than you would ever imagine.") 

Below, the TSA's takeaways -- some of them literal -- from a year's worth of airport screenings and confiscations:

    • Passengers screened, total, in 2012: 637,582,122
    • Passengers screened, per day: 1,746,800
    • Total firearms discovered in carry-on bags at checkpoints across the country: 1,543
    • Number of those firearms that were loaded 1,215 
    • Percentage of those firearms that were loaded: 78.7
    • Number of airports at which firearms were found: 199
    • Airport that had the highest number of firearms found: Atlanta (ATL)
    • Number of firearms found, total, at ATL alone: 95
    • Average number of firearms found per week at ATL alone: 1.8

Ways people tried to conceal their guns:

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Gun-in-book, Honolulu (TSA)

Explosives discovered in passenger baggage:

Items discovered that may or may not have been actually explosive:

    • An inert IED with a block of simulated SEMTEX-H, and a simulated blasting cap (CSG: Columbus)
    • An inert detonator -- discovered in a passenger's pocket during a pat-down search (CHS: Charleston)
    • A watch resembling an IED component (OAK: Oakland)
    • An expended AT-4 rocket launcher (LBE: Latrobe Airport outside of Pittsburgh)
    • A grenade launcher (SEA: Seattle Tacoma)
    • An M147 firing device with a blasting cap taped to it (RNO: Reno)
    • Several replica Claymore antipersonnel mines (EWR: Newark, GUM: Guam, and TUL: Tulsa)
    • Several inert warheads (SLC: Salt Lake City, PVD: Providence, NYL: Yuma, RIC: Richmond)
    • Inert mortar and bazooka rounds (ELP: El Paso, DFW: Dallas/ Fort Worth, TUS: Tucson)
    • Inert explosive components in a golf club case (AUS: Austin)
    • A simulated detonating cord, simulated sheet explosives, and two 3.5-ounce cans of propane (ORF: Norfolk)

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Left to right: A spear gun found at Raleigh-Durham; various swords found at New York JFK; a stun cane found at Cleveland; a chain saw found at Elmira Regional in New York; holiday-themed shells found at Newark (TSA)

Other items discovered:

    • Spear guns
    • Bear mace hidden in a sock
    • Dead venomous snakes
    • Multiple cane swords
    • Stun guns ("a shocking amount of")
    • A gassed up chainsaw
    • An 8-ounce bottle of vodka (discovered in a passenger's pants)
    • A knife mounted on a walker
    • Eels
    • A marijuana-filled grenade
    • Samurai swords
    • A stun cane
    • Jingle bell shotgun shells
    • A chastity belt

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Megan Garber is a staff writer at The Atlantic. She was formerly an assistant editor at the Nieman Journalism Lab, where she wrote about innovations in the media.

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