The TSA’s Screwed Up System For Transporting Firearms

BY Herschel Smith
7 years, 10 months ago

I’ve traveled through airports in Charlotte, Jackson Hole, Dallas, Phoenix and Albuquerque in the past year with firearms.  Virtually everything he said is wrong.

Or at least, if it isn’t wrong, it’s inconsistent with the way TSA dealt with me, and the TSA representatives with whom I dealt all did things differently.  No kidding, they are completely out of control and don’t know what they’re doing, not just at one or two airports, but nationally.

So let’s begin at the beginning.  First of all, lock your case while transporting your gun in the checked luggage, no matter what he said.  Declare your firearm at the ticket counter.  The airline will call for TSA.  From here things get confused, like Barney Fife is doing the work.

I’ve had TSA agents ask me to open my case (which is why I keep the keys to the lock handy).  I’ve had TSA agents look at the weapon, look at the form I completed asserting that the firearm was unloaded, ask me to lock my case, and then (almost always) throw the form down on top of the case, NOT inside it (the airlines insist that your form be visible inside the luggage but not inside the gun case, and they usually request that I simply place it on top of the gun case).  Luggage handlers and TSA agents need to be able to see that there is such a form, and if it’s inside the case, they can’t.  I have always had TSA and the airlines insist that ammunition be inside the luggage, but not inside the gun case.

I’ve also had TSA agents swipe the inside of the case (as if looking for residue of some sort, and there will always be residue inside my gun cases), and then ask me to lock my case.  Not once have I ever had an agent verify that my firearm was unloaded.  Not that I think that’s important anyway, and not that it’s important for transport (or carry through the airport, given the presence of a concealed handgun permit).

Once (Denver) the TSA sent my checked luggage through an X ray machine (for what reason I don’t know), and not do another single thing with it.  Once I had TSA stop me at the door to a room, never request that I open the case and never verify that I even signed the form testifying that the firearm was unloaded, and yet open the rest of the luggage and remove items (toiletries, clothing, etc.), look at them, fondle them, and then stuff all of the items back into the luggage in chaotic fashion (Phoenix).  The form I signed got stuffed in with the rest of the clothing.  She never looked at the firearm and didn’t seem to care that I had one.

I could go on about other experiences.  They don’t know what they’re doing.  There is no consistent procedure, or they aren’t trained on it, or both, or some other combination of failures.  It is the most random, confusing, nonsensical thing I’ve ever witnessed and would be amusing if it wasn’t so sad.  Commercial businesses would shut down if we operated that way.

I’m not trying to tell you what to do, but this counsel above is not really very wise, and I don’t do what he said.  Your experience may vary depending upon the airport, time of day, and whether the TSA agent had an argument with their spouse that morning or too much to drink the night before.

But I’m not really surprised by any of this.

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  1. On August 31, 2016 at 12:31 am, TheAlaskan said:

    I always fly armed. Once, when leaving Bristol Bay at the end of the salmon season, I was in the King Salmon terminal checking in for a flight to Anchorage. TSA had just been installed at this remote Alaskan airport. I was packing a Rugar 44 redhawk…in a locked case and checked, ammo separate and checked. I declared the gun and the TSA agent got the case and had me open it (I carry the keys too.) Then he told me to pick up the gun (big stainless hog-leg) and show him it was unloaded! I DID NOT WANT TO PICK UP THAT GUN WITH ARMED POLICE NEARBY! I told him I did not want to pick up the gun and that he should do it, after all, it was unloaded. He told me again (tersely) to pick up the gun and show him it was unloaded. By now, the tiny crowded terminal was silent and all were watching the lunacy unfolding…so, I picked up the pistol, dropped down the cylinder, spun it, showed him and said…”satisfied.” He had stepped back a few steps when I picked it up, had an ashen face, no doubt realizing having me handle the weapon was really stupid.

  2. On August 31, 2016 at 9:58 am, Fred said:

    Funny (now). I would love to have seen the look on that guys face.

  3. On August 31, 2016 at 5:16 pm, Earl Wertheimer said:

    He probably didn’t know how to check it himself…

  4. On September 1, 2016 at 2:37 am, TSA_TheSexualAssault said:

    You don’t get a lifetime of various weapon-handling working at TSA. Most of the training is anti-gun.

  5. On September 1, 2016 at 12:26 pm, Onlooker from Troy said:

    Exactly right. He simply didn’t want to show his ignorance.

  6. On August 31, 2016 at 7:16 am, Nosmo King said:

    TSA’s ineptitude and inconsistency, and the procedural conflict between TSA and nearly every airline on requirements, makes me wonder if it isn’t just better to ship the gun ahead via FedEx – it’s completely legal to ship a gun to yourself. True, there’s an added expense, it’s probably no possible if multipl stops are being made, without reliable recipients in travel-to cities it would not be possible, and one wouldn’t be able to be armed upon exiting the airport (a consideration in some areas), but it would avoid having to deal with TSA, which doesn’t seem to have uniform standards.

    Your thoughts?

  7. On August 31, 2016 at 9:45 am, Herschel Smith said:

    I wish it worked that way. The problem is that USPS and FedEx only ship firearms for you if you’re an FFL. And if you’re an FFL the rate is reasonable. The only way you and I can ship a firearm is via UPS, which charges around $100 per shipment. I’ve done it before. FFLs know this, and they will charge you just a little bit less than UPS (say, $70 or $80) to ship for you, enough of a savings to get you to use their services, but enough to make a handsome profit. I’d do it too if I had to pay for the FFL.

  8. On August 31, 2016 at 11:36 am, Nosmo King said:

    I don’t know who you’ve been talking to at FedEx, but they gave you bad info. I’m not an FFL and I’ve been shipping guns – handguns and rifles – exclusively with FedEx for over a decade. Which is why I have a FedEx account and not a UPS account (nothing against UPS, but the FedEx terminal at the airport is 12 miles closer than the UPS terminal; most “shipping stores” (“The UPS Store”) etc. won’t accept firearms, and even if they do it’s prudent to hand it over directly to an identified employee of the carrier rather than leave it with Joe or Sally at Staples or Office Depot.

    Last time I shipped handguns it cost $48 for sending two of them 2nd day air to my gunsmith, including $1500 value coverage. Federal law requires notifying the carrier the package contains firearms, and FedEx will not accept anything slower than 2nd day air for handguns (long guns can go ground, much cheaper, and I’ve done that often).

    Federal law allows a non-licensed individual to ship guns of all types via non-USPS common carrier, in accordance with the common carrier’s rules, to manufacturers, licensed gunsmith and/or repair facilities, and to FFLs, and those facilities may ship the repaired firearm – handgun or long gun – directly back to the customer, at whatever address the customer provides. It is also legal, according to my research, to ship a gun from yourself to yourself at a distant address. As far as USPS is concerned, postal regulations limit that for all types of guns as FFL-to-FFL Only.

  9. On August 31, 2016 at 12:12 pm, Herschel Smith said:

    I’m sorry. You’re correct. I meant FedEx and not UPS. And FedEx here charges much more than where you are, apparently.

  10. On August 31, 2016 at 9:55 am, Fred said:

    So, the TSA is fake. It does not secure anything. It is designed to make you used to being disrobed, helpless, and processed. It is training against you, conditioning. You are property of the state, a slave.

    I will never fly again. I have determined that the TSA in antithetical to my liberty, on purpose, at gun point, for my own good, or else. Screw that!!! I may lose my job one day because of this, if so that will suck but time is up. I don’t fly commercial and if you have to ask why or don’t understand this, I will pray for you.

    Always follow the Airlines instructions for transporting anything, including weapons. The airline has the final say.

  11. On September 1, 2016 at 2:41 am, TSA_TheSexualAssault said:

    Yes, approximately “security theater”. Any real terrorist team will instantly overwhelm TSA, and the Americans nearby will mostly not be armed (much less than usual due to PITA of airport)

  12. On August 31, 2016 at 11:15 am, Chris said:

    Most of my experience with traveling with guns was pre 9/11, so no TSA. Two standout memories – in San Francisco, I offered to show the ticket agent giving me the form that the gun was unloaded. He didn’t want to see it – he was afraid of guns! And in Billings, I said I was traveling with a gun to declare, the agent said, of course you are. Everyone here does.
    Post TSA – a totally mixed bag. But it always requires a lockable case and an unloaded gun. Sometimes they have insisted it be locked with a TSA lock (that they can easily open – no doubt it makes stealing items easier). Sometimes they require the suitcase containing the gun case be locked (TSA lock again, sometimes) and have hard sides. Sometimes not. So I travel with a hard sided suitcase with a TSA lock, and both a TSA and non-TSA lock inside. Always have the keys to open any of them available (or know the combinations).
    A good rule – never fly commercial if there is any other choice.

  13. On September 1, 2016 at 2:34 am, TSA_TheSexualAssault said:

    At least, fly with a starter pistol. The luggage gets special handling.

  14. On September 1, 2016 at 8:35 am, RetdMSgt . said:

    I flew from Omaha to Huntsville recently, and jumped through all the hoops I was supposed to jump through, according to TSA. When I picked up my (locked) suitcase, I discovered that they had cut the lock (that they had TOLD ME TO PUT ON THE CASE) thus leaving my firearm unsecured. Since they had inspected it in Omaha, and I had one change of planes, in Dallas, not sure why they felt the need to cut the lock again, but from now on, if I can drive it in less than 24 hours, I’m not flying. And if I can’t drive it, I’m not going.

  15. On September 1, 2016 at 7:07 pm, Traveler said:

    My favorite is…
    they throw the Title One or Title 2 Weapon right on the regular baggage carousel for any terd pos to grab!! WTF‽
    NEVER be late for your baggage!!!! Even if it means your crap your pants.

    (I Believe) if they were serious about Weapons Security, we should have to go pick them up in a seperate secure area (TSA/LE Area/special cargo area), after presenting Personal ID and Luggage ID we are given our Stuff.


  16. On September 3, 2016 at 5:09 pm, Oryguncon said:

    In the years since the TSA was created I have had a flight/security issue of some sort with the TSA on every trip. Most were minor others were mind boggling. All not involving guns what so ever. My favorite was an agent who couldn’t read my passport correctly, while I was the only person in the outer security line on a quiet afternoon. Told me the passport was expired. He was reading the issue date not the expiration date. I couldn’t tell if he was incompetent or trying to yank my chain.

  17. On October 5, 2016 at 10:45 pm, RPJ said:

    I use a Trak Dot with all my luggage & always with my firearms. That way I know every airport my luggage makes it to. This greatly reduces the hassle of “where is my luggage”.
    Like everyone else here I have found that every airport does things differently. There is no consistent policy from airport to airport. NONE!

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You are currently reading "The TSA’s Screwed Up System For Transporting Firearms", entry #15552 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) TSA,TSA Ineptitude and was published August 30th, 2016 by Herschel Smith.

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