TAMPA (FOX 13) - At Tampa International Airport and airports across the country, guns found at security checkpoints are on the rise.
Between 2016 and 2017, there was a 16 percent increase in the number of firearms found by TSA screeners nationwide. A total of 3,952 tried to make it through those checkpoints in 2017.
"TSA doesn't have a problem with it, we don't want to infringe on your right to take a gun with you when you travel," said TSA spokesperson Mark Howell. "We just want to make sure that it's packed safely and that's it's inaccessible during the flight."
First things first, no guns are allowed on carry-on luggage, ever. To successfully fly with a firearm in checked luggage, TSA says owners must place it in a hard-sided case with padding inside. The gun must be completely unloaded and ammunition can be stored in a magazine or in the box it came in. It just can't be left loose in the case.
"Make sure that there are no rounds chambered on the inside as well," said Howell.
Most importantly, travelers with firearms must declare their weapons.
"If you do not declare it, and it comes down for security, we're going to call the airline and say, 'Hey did this person declare it?' If they say no, you can get yourself into trouble," explained Howell.
Gun owners will be charged any associated baggage fee just like any other checked luggage.
A recent report found that at Tampa International Airport last year, TSA agents found 97 guns -- 90 of them loaded -- at security checkpoints. So far 24 have been found just this year.
"People just forget," said Chief Charlie Vazquez with Tampa International Airport Police. "They just forget. Know where your weapons are. They just forget."
That lapse of memory could cost a gun owner up to $13,000. The penalties are much steeper if a passenger doesn't have a concealed weapons permit for their firearm.
"If you don't have a concealed carry permit, you will be arrested, your weapon will be impounded and you will end up going to jail," said Vazquez.
Airlines have different rules and regulations, so Howell says to check with the airline you're flying with to make sure you can fly with it.