An average of nine firearms a day were confiscated at US airports last year - most of them loaded - according to figures released by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).

The agency, which has become an unlikely hit on Instagram, discovered a total 3,391 guns on travellers in 2016, 83 per cent of which, it said, were loaded.

That figure represents a 28 per cent increase on 2015 statistics, compared to a 6.2 per cent rise in the number of passengers screened by the TSA.

The agency also revealed the 10 airports with the most firearm discoveries; a list topped by Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL).

Advertisement

Top 10 US airports for firearm discoveries

1. Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL)
2. Dallas/Fort Worth International (DFW)
3. George Bush Intercontinental Airport - Houston (IAH)
4. Phoenix Sky Harbor International (PHX)
5. Denver International (DEN)
6. Orlando International Airport (MCO)
7. Nashville International (BNA)
8. Tampa International (TPA)
9. Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (AUS)
10. Salt Lake City International (SLC)

TSA rules prohibit guns in carry-on bags, but they do allow passengers to travel with firearms provided they are unloaded, stored in a hard-sided, locked container and placed in a checked bag.

Travelling with prohibited items will not only cause delays at the airport, warns the TSA, but could also land you with a criminal conviction.

"Each time we find a dangerous item, the line is slowed down and a passenger that likely had no ill intent ends up with a citation or in some cases is even arrested," said the TSA. "The passenger can face a penalty as high as US$11,000 ($15,200)."

This article was originally published on the Telegraph.