Michael Winter, USA TODAY
More than 1,500 have been found in passengers' carry-on bags this year, and 85% have been loaded.
A record number of guns -- more than 1,500 -- have been found by airport security screeners this year, and 85% have been loaded, the Transportation Security Administration reports.
As of last Friday, the Transportation Security Administration had found 1,527, of which 1,295 were loaded, NBC News says. That's the most since the agency was created after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.
By Friday, this week's finds are expected to push the total beyond 1,550.
Between Dec. 14, the day of the Newtown, Conn., school massacre, and Dec. 21, TSA screeners spotted 34 handguns that passengers tried to bring aboard their flights. Only two were unloaded. The week before, 29 guns -- 21 loaded -- were found at checkpoints.
The first week of December was even busier. Screeners confiscated 41 firearms, 40 stun guns, four grenades -- and a rocket launcher (expended, alas). "No Partridge in a Pear Tree," the TSA mused on its blog.
The most commonly detected gun? A .380 semiautomatic pistol.
So far in 2012, Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson airport heads the list of gun confiscations (90), followed by Dallas-Fort Worth (78), NBC reported previously. Five Texas airports are in the top 11.
Besides firearms, passengers have also tried to bring a variety of other weapons in their carry-on bags this month. Some recent finds:
A speargun. It was discovered at George Bush Intercontinental in Houston -- armed with one spear.
Concealed blades. A cane featuring a hidden sword was found at Kahului, Hawaii, while a cane with a secret 8-inch knife was detected in Baltimore.
Ammunition. A Bismarck, N.D., passenger was carrying a magazine loaded with five .17 Hornady Magnum Rimfire rounds in his pants pocket.
More hand grenades.
Other prohibited items: Shotgun shell Christmas lights found in Newark.
What happens when TSA screeners find weapons?
"We don't have detention authority," TSA spokesman David Castelveter told NBC. "The immediate procedure is to call the local authority."
On TSA's blog, Bob Burns offers these reminders:
You can travel with your firearms in checked baggage, but they must first be declared to the airline. ... Travelers should familiarize themselves with state and local firearm laws for each point of travel prior to departure.
Unfortunately these sorts of occurrences are all too frequent which is why we talk about these finds. Sure, it's great to share the things that our officers are finding, but at the same time, each time we find a dangerous item, the throughput is slowed down and a passenger that likely had no ill intent ends up with a citation or in some cases is even arrested. This is a friendly reminder to please leave these items at home. Just because we find a prohibited item on an individual does not mean they had bad intentions, that's for the law enforcement officer to decide. In many cases, people simply forgot they had these items.
The TSA spells out the rules in detail.