WASHINGTON -- Several times every day, at airports across the country, passengers are trying to walk through security with loaded guns in their carry-on bags, purses or pockets, even in a boot. And, nearly a dozen years after 9/11, it's happening a lot more often.
In the first six months of this year, Transportation Security Administration screeners found 894 guns on passengers or in their carry-on bags, a 30 percent increase over the same period last year.
The TSA set a record in May for the most guns seized in one week -- 65 in all, 45 of them loaded and 15 with bullets in the chamber and ready to be fired. That was 30 percent more than the previous record of 50 guns, set just two weeks earlier.
Last year, TSA found 1,549 firearms on passengers attempting to go through screening, up 17 percent from the year before.
In response to a request from The Associated Press, the agency provided figures on the number of firearm incidents in 2011 and 2012 for all U.S. airports, as well as the number of passengers screened at each airport. The AP analyzed the data, as well as weekly blog reports from the agency on intercepted guns from this year and last year.
TSA didn't keep statistics on guns intercepted before 2011, but officials have noticed an upward trend in recent years, said spokesman David Castelveter.
Some of the details make officials shake their heads.
As one passenger took off his jacket to go through screening in Sacramento, Calif., last year, TSA officers noticed he was wearing a shoulder holster, and in it was a loaded 9-mm pistol. The same passenger was found to have three more loaded pistols, 192 rounds of ammunition, two magazines and three knives.
TSA doesn't believe these gun-toting passengers are terrorists, but the agency can't explain why so many passengers try to board planes with guns, either, Castelveter said. The most common excuse offered by passengers is "I forgot it was there."