PENTAGON CITY, Va., Jan. 21 (UPI) -- More firearms were confiscated from travelers by the U.S. Transportation Security Administration at American airports in 2015 than in any other year on record, officials said Thursday.
According to the agency's year-end statistics, announced Thursday, 2,653 firearms were seized from travelers in 2015 -- the most since the government began keeping track. That's an increase of 441 guns from the previous record, set in 2014.
The firearms were confiscated by TSA screeners from passengers' carry-on luggage. Passengers are permitted to travel with guns in their luggage but they must be checked and declared.
"Through increased training in detection methods, our officers are becoming more adept at intercepting these prohibited items," TSA Administrator Peter V. Neffenger said in a news release. "The transport of firearms by commercial air in carry-on bags represents a threat to the safety and security of air travelers."
"Of the 2,653 firearms discovered in carry-on bags at checkpoints across the country, 2,198 (82.8 percent) were loaded. Firearms were intercepted at 236 airports; 12 more airports than last year," the news release added.
In addition to the record number of firearms taken, the agency also noted several other accomplishments in 2015 -- including an increase of 40 million passengers screened for the year, and a total of 1.6 billion carry-on bags checked.
The TSA also said there were 178 days in 2015 that agents screened more than 2 million passengers in a single 24-hour period. On average, 1.9 million passengers got checked per day.
The agency also said its Pre(check) program, which allows vetted frequent fliers to bypass general security lines at checkpoints, signed up its two-millionth member this month.
On duty at U.S. airports since 2002, the TSA said passenger safety continues to be priority number one. Federal Air Marshals even flew more than a billion miles in 2015, the agency acknowledged.
Passengers who are found to have a firearm in their carry-on luggage can be prosecuted under federal law and be subject to civil penalties.
Of all U.S. airports served by the TSA, Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport -- the nation's fourth-busiest -- was the site of the most confiscations in 2015, with 153. Atlanta Hartsfield International Airport, the nation's busiest, was second with 144 -- followed by Houston's George Bush International Airport (100), Denver (90) and Phoenix (73).
Nashville, Seattle, Dallas Love, Austin and Houston's William P. Hobby Airport filled out the top 10.
"Passengers who wish to travel with firearms should inform themselves about laws pertaining to the possession and transport of firearms in their departure state, destination state, and any state where they may have a connecting flight," the TSA advises.
The agency also described several other banned items that were found at U.S. airports in 2015 -- including ammunition, knives, black powder, various grenades, fireworks, detonation equipment and dummy explosives.
In Seattle, agents found two blocks of dummy C-4 in one passenger's carry-on bag. Such items do not pose danger to a commercial flight, the TSA said, but they are prohibited because there's no way for a screener to tell whether they are live or inoperative.