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Mac's Guide to Flying with a Firearm:

Discussion in 'Carry Issues' started by MacG22, Mar 27, 2010.

  1. There have been several posts asking if TSA employees can handle your firearm. The answer according to the quoted text below in NO. The NRA page I'm posting is not law, but it states what TSA's policy is, according to the Director in 2006. I think this would be sufficient to use as documentation in the event of an issue. It certainly may force to TSA to actually publish the policy. I am guessing the airlines' have a similar policy.

    NOTE: TSA only allows loaded magazines if the open end is covered as in placing the open end into a mag pouch. Check with your airline. Some won't even if TSA says it's ok
    Last edited: Feb 8, 2012
  2. racer88

    racer88 NRA & SAF mbr

    Oct 14, 2009
    OK.... I've done this twice now. Two round trips = four experiences checking a firearm.

    Palm Beach --> Little Rock via Delta: Delta agent put the firearms declaration tag INSIDE my locked Pelican case (which is cable-locked to the frame inside soft-sided suitcase). Then I had to take my luggage (with an escort) to a special TSA security checkpoint.

    Little Rock --> Palm Beach via Delta: Ticket agent also put declaration tag INSIDE locked Pelican case. But, then luggage went on conveyor belt.

    Palm Beach --> Tampa via Southwest: Ticket agent TAPED declaration tag on the OUTSIDE of my locked Pelican case.

    Tampa --> Palm Beach via Southwest: Ticket agent insisted that declaration tag simply go inside softsided luggage (anywhere) rather than taped to the outside of Pelican case or inside Pelican case. Then I had to be escorted (along with another guy declaring a firearm) to a separate TSA checkpoint. We stood there while they scanned our suitcases and then were told we were good to go.

    OK... It seems to me that there would logically be some CONSISTENCY to this process. So far, all four experiences were DIFFERENT.

    I also believe it seems rather illogical to put the declaration tag INSIDE the locked gun case. Nobody will ever see it, except ME when I get to my destination. The one time the ticket agent taped it the outside of the gun case made the most sense to me. And, even at the same airport (Palm Beach), one time I was escorted to a TSA checkpoint. Another time the luggage went on the conveyor belt. So, what is the story here?
    Last edited: Nov 7, 2010

  3. Welcome to the TSA and air travel, where the only standards are NO standards. I totally agree that if you are the only person with the key to your firearm case, it is completely illogical to place the tag inside the locked case. If TSA conducts a secondary search and the tag is not visible to them, they have no idea whether the firearm was declared or not. I put most of the blame on the airlines for poor training of their ticket agents. I have found absolutely nothing in the TSA regs or US CFR addressing the declaration tag location. Even so, common sense should dictate where the tag logically should go..

    Oh wait, nevermind.

    As far as the differences in how TSA treats your bag at different airports, it depends on where the TSA scanner is located. Airports were never designed for these large heavy devices so they have to be placed where there is room and the floor can take the weight. Sometimes it's in a different area and no 2 airports are exactly the same
  4. rmarkob

    rmarkob NRA Member

    Jun 29, 2007

    I will be heading to West Palm Beach on Southwest next week, and my previous experience there matches yours when they escorted you downstairs to the TSA area.

    I think some of the inconsistency with handguns stems from the practice on long guns, where the gun case IS the luggage. The tag goes inside, because you don't want to advertise the contents,'s a gun case!!! Hard to disguise that!

    I agree that attaching the declaration to a handgun case inside the luggage makes the most sense. One TSA agent at SeaTac explained it to me: When the luggage goes through TSA screening and the x-rays reveal a firearm, they open the luggage to ensure you've declared it to the airline as being unloaded. The tag is evidence of that. If it's inside the gun case, they can't see it. If it's loose in your luggage and not near the gun case, they could miss it. If it's taped to the gun case, or attached via string (I've done that when the tag includes a string), there's no question.

    I wish the TSA would clarify the requirements so the airlines would be consistent!
  5. They can't. They're the TSA

  6. rmarkob

    rmarkob NRA Member

    Jun 29, 2007
    OK, just checked in at Southwest in West Palm Beach (PBIA), and it was perfect! The agent got the declaration form, had me fill it out and open my bag, then got a roll of clear tape and taped the form to the outside of my Secure-it/Center-of-Mass lock box. I told her that when I checked in at SWA in BWI, the agent had me put the form inside the lock box. I asked the BWI agent how can the TSA see that I've properly declared the firearm?, and she had the brilliant response "I guess they can see inside". :rofl:

    The agent at PBIA complimented me on my lockbox and said she liked how it was secured to the frame of my luggage. She said I wouldn't believe some of the boxes people try to use that completely compromise the security of the firearm.

    One new wrinkle - she didn't have me escorted downstairs to the entrance to the TSA area by baggage claim. She just put the bag on the conveyor behind the counter.:cheers:
  7. Each airport's scanners are in a different location. That's why some go on the conveyor and other times they escort you
  8. rmarkob

    rmarkob NRA Member

    Jun 29, 2007
    I know, but I've always been escorted at THIS airport before. The only difference is that this is the first time I've flown SWA from PBIA.
  9. that is strange. But hey, it's TSA right? The only procedure they have is be inconsistent. This helps confuse the terrorists as well as everyone else.

  10. racer88

    racer88 NRA & SAF mbr

    Oct 14, 2009
    NOPE. Same airport... once went on conveyor. Another time escorted to a separate area. The only difference was the airline. SAME airport.
  11. SEAX

    SEAX Wilson

    Jan 21, 2007
    out in the black
    That is some excellent information.

    However, it is (again) obscene that every day, tax-paying, patriotic, law-abiding citizens are the ones treated like criminals, it sickens me. All that double locking and hanging the wife's undies from it just to keep it safe FROM TSA!
  12. were the airline counters in close proximity to each other? if not maybe that explains it. ask next time. maybe they'll tell you but you might get on a no fly list for just asking.

  13. racer88

    racer88 NRA & SAF mbr

    Oct 14, 2009
    Same terminal. Within 100 yards of each other, I'd say.
  14. Blacula


    Mar 8, 2004
    I use a Pelican case large enough to hold all of my baggage. You put your non-TSA lock on the large case, and no one has access to any of your belongings. Works like a charm and is completely within the regulations.
  15. Well. I'm stumped.

  16. DrBob


    Jun 26, 2010

    it would be a good idea to have a copy of the "Don Young" letter with you to show the Police and/or TSA if hassled on a stop over in NY. Use this link to make a copy

    This only applies to people on route THROUGH NY. If you intend to stop there, it's a whole different ball game.
    Last edited: Nov 17, 2010
  17. MacG22

    MacG22 CLM

    Feb 28, 2008
    My experiences have been the same. Going in and out of Detroit multiple times, and Denver as well, I've been escorted and not. From what I could perceive, it was based upon the comfort level of the ticket agent. If they were comfortable with the procedure, I usually didn't go anywhere. If they were not, I was given to TSA for scanning.

    The good news is that, as of yet, I've never really had a BAD experience for all the lack of consistency. It's easy to fly with my firearm. But I would like to see it nailed down a little better so that I feel I can predict a bit better.

    I can also say that, from what I've experienced (pure anecdote) it is getting easier and easier. I can hope that the more we all fly with our firearms, the more it will become predictable and easy.

    TSA is under a lot of fire, too. I wonder what affect all their current scrutiny will have on their overall procedures, if any.
  18. Manofprint


    Aug 27, 2008
    South FL
    Checked firearm for the first time today.
    Ft Lauderdale >>>> Detroit Via Delta airlines

    Told the clerk I was declaring an unloaded firearm she said you have to sign this form. She gave me the red tag and I signed it. She then told me
    to put it inside my bag. Iasked her if she needed to sign where it said agent and said oh yeah. She sgned it and I put it in the main part of the bag. She took it and put it on the belt. She never had me open it or anything. No TSA pages to open it or anything. Is this Normal.
    It went smooth dont get me wrong. I was just shocked.

    Thanks MAC for the great guide and ideas
    Last edited: Nov 23, 2010
  19. Jon_R


    May 3, 2009
    Central Florida
    This is basically the way it worked for me flying Delta to and from Orlando/ Las Vegas. The only difference is in Orlando you take your bags to TSA regardless so the ticket agent went with me and told TSA there was an unloaded firearm in the bag. TSA just said Ok and I was free to head to the gate. Las Vegas they tossed it on the belt behind the agent.