I am lucky (cursed?) in that I travel around our great nation quite a bit. If I am traveling to a state that has Constitutional Carry or concealed carry reciprocity with Wisconsin, which is most of the time, I usually take a gun with me. The process used to be pretty easy…
Under the old process, I simply put my unloaded firearm in a locked case in my luggage. When I checked my bag, I declared it to the agent, signed a waiver form stating that the firearm was unloaded and secured, and checked the bag. When I got to my destination, I got my bag off of the carousel and went on with my day. Easy. Simple. Safe. The firearm was never unlocked or available to me in an secure part of the airport.
In January, a lunatic took his gun out of his checked luggage, loaded it in a bathroom, and killed several people in the Ft. Lauderdale airport. In response, TSA has changed the process for the worse.
Under the new process, when I declare my firearm when I check my bag, the agent must visually inspect my gun to make sure it is unloaded and properly secured. So now, instead of the firearm remaining locked and unobtrusive, I must open my bag, open my locked gun case, and show my firearm to the agent. So now there is an unsecured weapon available at the ticket counter.
Then, when I get to my destination, my bag no longer goes to the carousal. Instead, it is taken to the baggage agent and I am paged over the overhead. If you know the new process, now you know whose bag has a firearm in it. When I go to claim my bag, the agent verifies my ID and gives me my bag. But now my bag has a big annoying zip tie around it. Again… perfectly identifying which bags have firearms in them and creating an annoyance for the owner of the bag. Here’s how my bag came out:
Let’s start with why this policy is useless… it would have done nothing to prevent what happened in Ft. Lauderdale. It took me 2 seconds to cut off that zip tie. I didn’t do it until I got out of the airport, but it would have been just as easy for me to take my bag into a restroom, retrieve my firearm, and do bad things with it at the airport – just like the guy in Ft. Lauderdale. Not to mention that the baggage claim area is not a secure area of the airport anywhere in the U.S. So if someone wanted to shoot up the place, they could just as easily bring a gun in from the outside instead of going through the hassle of checking a bag with a gun in it.
Now let’s talk about why it is dangerous… during check in, my firearm used to remain secured. Now, I am opening the case and showing it to the agent. My travel weapon is a semi-automatic and the agent just looked at it. She could see that the magazine was removed, but could not have verified that there wasn’t a round in the chamber. Will more vigilant agents ask me to open up the gun and show it? Is it better to have an unobtrusive checked gun or have people opening up their guns at the counter all the time? I think we know.
Also, as I understand it, the zip tie is put on the bag when it is checked and there is a new label that tells the baggage handlers to not put it on the carousel. What this does is clearly identify every bag that contains a firearm throughout the baggage handling process. It is not uncommon for bags and their contents to be stolen( which is why my travel gun is an inexpensive one), and this policy puts a target on the ones with guns. This goes all of the way through to when the passenger picks up his or her bag with the baggage agent. On a recent flight, there were six of us who had to go claim our bags with firearms in them. How hard would it be for bad guys to target us on our way to our hotels? Or even scout the local hotels and look for bags with the telltale zip ties around them?
Finally, it should go without saying, but the reason this policy is stupid is because of the above. Remember that this policy is a reaction to something that happened once. In the decades of air travel and millions upon millions of guns that have been transported in checked baggage, one guy got out his gun and shot up and airport. One. So now we have a new policy. Leave it up to a government agency to create a reactionary policy to a single incident that not only fails to solve the supposed problem, but actually makes the transportation of firearms more of a hassle AND more dangerous.
And people wonder why the TSA gets a bad rep…