Sure, it's easy to get held up at airport security for accidentally packing too much liquid, but items like guns, pepper spray, and martial arts weapons are, well, considerably less understandable. And yet, the TSA confiscated more than 22,000 of them and other weapons at airport security checkpoints in the US last year. Whoa.
TSA data obtained via the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) shows that officials seized a total of 22,044 “dangerous items" -- everything from firearms to swords -- during airport security screenings in 2015, according to a recent analysis by Max Galka of Metrocosm. And thanks to the below interactive map Galka built with the data, you can see exactly how many dangerous objects were confiscated at each US airport:
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As you can see on the map, some airports confiscated way more weapons that you'd think they would, considering their locations and flight volumes. For example, Alaska's Anchorage International Aiport, the 55th busiest in the US, confiscated 434 dangerous items while Los Angeles International Airport, one of the nation's busiest, confiscated only 199 dangerous items.
"My expectation before going through the data was that the number of items confiscated in each airport would be roughly proportional to that airport's passenger traffic," Galka said via email. "That turned out to not be the case at all."
Additional maps show how some dangerous items were particularly prevalent at certain airports:
"Looking at specific items, there were a few cases where the numbers came out extremely disproportionate," Galka said. "For example, nearly half the pepper spray confiscated by the TSA nationwide last year came from one airport, Phoenix Sky Harbor. Hard to imagine what could possibly explain that."
OK, Phoenix, what the hell is going on with all that pepper spray?
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Tony Merevick is Cities News Editor at Thrillist and would love someone from Phoenix to explain the huge number of pepper spray confiscations. Send news tips to email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @tonymerevick.