air travel + gun + TSA = Frustration


May 12, 2003, 05:27 PM
I'm still fuming.

HOPS recent Air travel with Gun Experience. First with Gun since 1/1/2003 took effect.

Over the weekend I flew from PDX (Portland, OR) to SJC (San Jose, PRK) for a 40 B-day party.
Took my USP40F along to go shooting with best friend still trapped there. Also planned to shoot by
myself before flight back home, so I needed my gun for the obvious reason.

I travel with gun case that has a combination and key - double lock. Both work independantly of each other.
I check-in at Alaska Airlines counter, declare gun, get form, sign and date it, lock case. I had to do this
twice, because she grabbed one of their old one part forms. Their new forms, used since last year are 2 part forms, with one
copy for the gun case and the other copy gets stapled to the claim check. I like it. No big deal. She forgot to
check my ID, ooopppsss. Now I have to trott over to the ESD machnine with my 2 pieces of luggage. Have to
declare firearm again and am asked to wait since I'll have to open gun case after if goes through the ESD
machine. Eh?? What value does the ESD machine add if I need to open case after scanning?

Gun case is on conveyor and enters the ESD scanner and movement stops. Clock still moving, but not my gun.
4 TSA male units hover around monitor and seem to play 'Guess which Gun Make and Modle this is'. I wait, others
wait as the line backs up a bit. About 3-5 minutes later the gun moves, gets picked up and I'm called over.
I pull out key to unlock it and am told that I cannot touch my gun case, since it has been through the ESD
machine. ***??? I get a wee bit agitated now, but try to remain calm. TSA gentleman see me a bit peeved
and politely explains the process to me. Ok, fine, I give him key so he can unlock case. One or 2 other scan
buddies come over and they realize they all guessed wrong. Well, at least they were polite and I remained
relative so too. A 1 minute process took nearly 15 minutes.

San Jose back to PDX. I check-in, declare gun, sign and date form, place in gun casem lock gun case, and the
lady ckecking me in says "you can't lock the case. they'll want to open it after they scan it. Eh?? Scanner is
behind wall - not like PDX. I'm being asked to unlock gun case and send it through the black-luggage-hole -
thereby violating line 4 'Handgun(s) contain in my luggage are in a hardsided, locked, container, with the only key/combination in my possession) of the price of paper I just signed and dated as well as some Federal reg.
Yea, I'll commit a felony. No problem. I firmly stated that FAA / BATF regs firmly state that gun case with
gun goes in to luggage black hole locked with key and combination in my possesion only. I also told her that
she is asking me to commit a Federal Felony. She repeats her mantra. Ok, I'm tired, state - here is key. I expect to received gun case locked and the combination numbers tumbled when I pickup gun case in PDX, or else. After 3-5 mins she comes back with my key and I still grumble. She offered to give me the 800 number to complain. I thanked her but said I'll get if off the web. Told her that I was not upset or frustrated at her, that I understood she was just doing what she was told, thanked her politely and caught my flight. Gun/case arrived (it was moved in case - so it was fondled by TSA) locked and combination tumbled as I asked and as the airline lady confirmed to me as I left.

Ok, I can deal with the PDX experience somewhat, but the SJC experience is completely unacceptable. They violated
their own TSA, FAA, BATF policies and laws. So I guess I'll write Alaska Airlines and TSA about my experience.

I never had a problem - negative exerience traveling via AIR with my gun(s) before this.

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May 12, 2003, 05:45 PM
Welcome to the brave new air world. Almost worth it to send gun ahead to yourself. Glad you didn't have ammo in same case. The mags could have been loaded and TSA person shot themselve and blamed you. :(
I had hoped they got better by now. You must always plan on extra half hour to explain things to TSA. I love they explosive test AND run thru machine. KNOWING they will be hand checking it. You tell the TSA person who takes bag. "I have a declared/UNLOADED/hard cased firearm " in this bag. It goes thru machine and "BEEP< BEEP" crap.

May 12, 2003, 05:47 PM
Sorry to hear about the bad experience. I just flew two weeks ago on Alaska from Sacramento CA to Seattle and back and everything went like clockwork. The Alaska clerk was a shooter and we talked about Colt WWII 1911s and their collector's value, etc. The TSA guy was professional, fast, and relaxed.

Sadly, it's probably all about who you run into.

May 12, 2003, 05:47 PM
HOPS- it's good to vent. I've never had the need to air transport a firearm, and can only imagine the hoops that need to be jumped. Just curious; this form they had you fill out, do you know if there is a PDF version of it on the web? I'd like to see what it looks like.

El Tejon
May 12, 2003, 05:50 PM
Maybe just unlucky. I've flown several/many times since 9/11 and Jan. 1, 2003 with firearms. No problems to report.

However, last time I flew the highly-trained TSA security specialist in Austin did ask me why my "gun was broken" (I took the bolt out of my Ruger M77) and failed to check my M14's chamber. No hassles, and the American ticket agent told me that he "just HAD to get an M1A."

Maybe it's all that clean living I do?:confused:

Standing Wolf
May 12, 2003, 06:15 PM
Fire Mineta!

May 12, 2003, 07:43 PM
Had a terrible, blood-pressure elevating experience at SFO last month... the woman said, "I've been at this counter for 3 years and I've never checked a firearm." That's California for you, land of fruits and nuts.

Open Carry
May 12, 2003, 07:56 PM
I traveled out of Atlanta in February. The scanners are right next to the ticket counters. TSA agent had me open my gun case while I still standing in line. The lady in front of me was a little freaked.

May 12, 2003, 10:33 PM
I traveled from PNS (Pensacola, FL) to RDU (Raleigh/Durham, NC) last summer. I checked my 3913LS through as I was purchasing my sister's car and driving it back down to Florida, and wanted to be armed on the trip back. I was wearing Dockers, dressy shoes, a polo shirt, and a decent-looking watch, clean-shaven, with a fairly short GI-style haircut. When I declared the gun, security looked at it, looked at me, and asked me whether I was FBI or FDLE!:D :D :D Made my day. Everyone was professional and it arrived safely at the destination.

May 12, 2003, 11:40 PM
Had I checked ammo too, there would have been an incident. No freaking way would I give them gun and ammo and gun case key, while out of my view. Just what I need - TSA employee goes postal with passanger's ammo and gun. I go to jail and TSA nut case gets on the job counseling. Would have been ugly.

2 years ago as SJC check-in lady freaked when I declared the gun. I had to walk her through the proceedure - her first week.

No PDF file I know of but here is Alaska Airlines Firearm Decleration form.


Understanding that the carriage of an undecleared and/or loaded weapon is a violation of Federal Air Regulations, I declare that:

1) I am completing one declaration tag for each bag/container holding a firearm(s).
2) All firearms(s) in this bag/container are NOT loaded.
3) All ammunition I am carrying is in the original manufacturer's packaging, or in a container designed for ammunition.
4) Handgun(s) contained in my luggage are in a hardsided, locked, container, with the only key/combination in my possession.

--------------------- -------------

The top copy is attached to claim check
for firearm container and the other copy goes in the locked gun case.

I'm not too upset at the PDX experience, but the SJC (Norman Mineta Intl Airport) experience I'm livid about.

May 12, 2003, 11:45 PM
I have flown about 12 times out of 3 airports since 1/2003 with no problems. So far all have had the TSA inspection stations in front of the ticket counters. This weekend that will change. I will be flying out of Indy. I went to the airport last weekend to check out the TSA situation and they are doing inspections on a lower level. I found out that they are fully aware of the rule that I be the only one is possession of the key and combination, so I will be escorted into the caticombs of the Indy airport while my bag is scanned. If it needs to be opened I will be there, if not then I will be given the okay to proceed to security. If I were you I would definately report the TSA to BATF and FAA. Remember, the federal regulations are codified in federal statute. TSA is simply some rules they came up with. There is no USC cite for those rules. If possible, press charges. They coerced you into committing a felony, the fact that they have their heads in the nether regions is not your problem and they need to make corrections immediately. So far yours is the only situation that I have heard of like this.

May 13, 2003, 02:16 AM
Reason 2953 why I don't fly anymore.

May 13, 2003, 02:21 AM
i just recently traveled from Los Angeles, PRK to NE Florida with a buckmark 22. I went on AA.

the .22 was broken down, with the slide in another piece of luggage. At the counter I informed the ticket agent that I was, per AA regulations, declaring an unloaded firearm, that it was broken down, that per regulations, they were to inspect and log the firearm, and give me a tag stating that the firearm was unloaded and verified by the agent.

the agent was professional about the whole thing, found the tag after a few minutes, though, had me open the suit case, then the firearm case, verified it was unloaded/broken down, then finished tagging the suit case.

From there, a special TSA guy took my luggage to the end of the terminal, ran it through the bomb detector, then proceeded to hand inspect the luggage. Standing from 10 feet away, they had me give them the combination to the locks, ran the sniffer rags and tossed the contents of the luggage before the gave me the okay, and relocked everything. During this time, I was completely out of control of my luggage and its contents, dispite what the regulations say....

The only comments i got was from the TSA transport guy that asked my if i used guns to go kill animals :-( - told him only target shooting.

Spent about 15 minutes while they xrayed/sniffed/tossed everything. and relock everything.... so i thought.
turns out on one piece of luggage, the lock disappeared in transit, though nothing was missing. talked to AA, they claimed TSA probably reinspected the luggage, but i thing someone probably heard of the special handling the luggage got and tried
to see if they could find something.

on an interesting note - prior trip from LAX, had 3 - 20 oz packages of Miso - the japanese paste used to make soup in my luggage, no firearms that trip. Going though the small xray machine, my bags were stopped. I get called to through a doorway, and am surrounded with security all around me. With 2 guys on either side of me, they ask me "is that your bag", "Yes", i reply, "whats wrong?". "The combination, please" they ask. Standing 4 feet away from my bags, I give it to them. Cautiously, they cracked open the zipper and inch, then bomb sniff swab the entrance to the bag. Staring intently at the machine, they said "its clear", then opened the zippered flap of the bag. Without disturbing the contents of the bag, they swabbed several items on the top of the bag, and retested the swab. Satisfied that there was no residue, they then removed the first layer of materials in the bag. Then someone mention "the blocks are toward the bottom" and i realize that the were wondering what those funny looking 6" blocks were....

May 13, 2003, 03:28 AM
For those of us who have to fly, be aware that the machines being used (X-ray and "sniffers") typically look for dense organic materials. Under the right conditions powdered Kool-aid will set them off. If you want to pack miso soup-mix you'll probably get "pinged". Firearms are a whole different "problem".

May 13, 2003, 11:41 AM
Well this is the reason I have prepositioned firearms in the two main states I have to fly to. Time and distance make it the only way. :(
That said if I shoot in GSSF match in FL in Jan. I will have to check a Glock. :( Or borrow one at the match... I would NOT give out my combo for gun case. I have ran into crap that I can't touch my suitcase then they walk away so I (just to be mean) took stuff out of my carry on and put it into my checked bag THEN locked it AFTER it went thru scans. I had had SO much crap with them that trip I really didn't care. Guess what they never noticed me tip my suitcase flat, zip open, open carry on, remove shaving kit,shirt,etc and put in suitcase, Dig out small lock and close/lock suitcase, Put it on convayor. I had been ordered to unlock my pistol case TWICE AFTER showing it unloaded to airline ticket agent. (Below waist level using my suitcase cover to shield it from other passengers in line. TSA takes my suitcase but tells me to keep pistol hard case and "Hold it up higher so I can see, turn it to left." etc. IF I had followed his orders to letter I would have been muzzle flashing other passengers.
I really wouldn't mind half as much if I really thought it would have 50% chance of stopping a terrorist/madman/postal worker/etc. :) :) from getting a weapon on the plane.

May 13, 2003, 05:05 PM
I have often said that one option is to send the gun to yourself via FEDEX.

That is no longer true.

My customer service rep at FEDEX tells me that FEDEX now will not take a firearm for shipment unless the sender or the receiver is an FFL holder. Of course, there is no law requiring this.

She (the rep) handles many in the firearms business, and knows this is a bad policy.

We all need to contact FEDEX and complain, and ask them to bring their policies in line with federal law.

FedEx Customer Relations
3875 Airways, Module H3
Department 4634
Memphis, TN 38116

May 13, 2003, 07:22 PM
Flew out of Memphis last week with a brand new Marlin 1894SS I picked up when I was out there. Went up to the counter and declared I was checking a firearm. Did the whole unloaded verification thing. The check-in lady was so sweet and asked if I hunted. She seemed disappointed when I told her it was for plinking/target.

The TSA guys came over oohing and aahing about the gun and I felt like a proud Papa.

No problems. I guess some places are more gun-friendly than others.

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