The TTAG crew flies in and out of Austin Bergstrom International Airport fairly regularly since Austin, Texas is our home base. While I typically carry my firearms on my person in the airplane, Robert, Dan, and Jeremy are forced to check their tools at the ticket counter and rely on airport and airline employees to get their guns onto and off of the airplane.

It seems that one enterprising young man at ABIA took that responsibility as an opportunity to make some extra cash at the expense of others, and is now facing 20 years in prison.

From KXAN:

A baggage handler who pleaded guilty Wednesday to stealing guns from passenger bags at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport now faces up to 20 years in prison.

Ja’Quan Johnson, 26, stole the items from checked baggage, including a .40 caliber Glock semiautomatic pistol, the Department of Justice announced. When the allegations first emerged, the Austin Police Department said Johnson had traded some of the stolen guns for marijuana.

Johnson pleaded guilty to one count of theft from an interstate shipment and one count of possession of a stolen firearm. By pleading guilty, the Justice Department says Johnson admits that between Nov. 29, 2016 and Feb. 2, 2017, he stole seven handguns from passenger bags at the airport.

The sad truth is that this kind of thing happens all the time. Whether it’s TSA agents lifting iPads or baggage handlers picking laptops out of checked luggage, there’s no guarantee that your personal belongings are safe when flying the, er, friendly skies. That’s one reason why I prefer to carry all my important luggage with me on commercial flights these days.

For those flying commercial flights with checked firearms, though, I recommend watching Deviant Ollam’s presentations on flying with firearms. He goes through a lot of information about how to pick the right cases, which locks are the most secure, and some tips for dealing with airport and airline staff.

Taking a little time to better prepare yourself and your firearms might mean the difference between a pleasantly quick airport experience and a nightmare of police and ATF reporting.

45 Responses to Austin, TX Airport Baggage Handler Charged with Stealing Guns from Checked Luggage

    • A person can’t carry on a commercial flight, they have to check it in and surrender it to a suitcase that spends the flight in the baggage compartment so you’re safe, don’t worry.

  1. Wonder why it was so important for the KXAN journo to mention a “40 caliber Glock” was stolen? Now the Rugers and S&Ws will be very jealous.

  2. Ahem…speaking of rugged shipping cases, those new Flambeau tactical cases are pretty cool, unfortunately, they have a big badge right in the middle that says “TACTICAL”….which basically says “there’s a gun in here”. Not cool Flambeau.

    • That’s pretty much the same problem with all expensive protective cases like those.

      A case like that *screams* “Something valuable in here!”

    • A long time ago when the airline would check your guns in a suitcase but then put a big bright orange n black sticker on the outside of the suitsase basically advertising which ones had guns in them and sure enough a .45 cal semi-auto 1911 didn’t meet us at the destination point when taken it to North Carolina one summer. They started to check them then put the sticker inside the case so it wasn’t a target to begin with.

  3. want to bet he gets like 3 or 6 months? And that’s it??

    BLM will be howling –he-dint-donutting he was turning his life around! that gun was WHITE owned and temped him to steal it, for WHITE mans drugs, that they PUSH on US!

    Or since it was getting a gun off the streets via stealing it–all’s good with the Brady bunch and bloomy!

  4. I’m glad he’s looking at 20 years. That’s a serious offense. We travelers entrust our personal items to the airlines, whether there’s a gun in it or something else of value. I’ve flown with a firearm multiple times, and 4 times in just the last two weeks. Each time I hope it’s still in there when I get to my destination. On one flight, Delta marked the bag with two big “CAGPT” stickers (“check and give protection to”). I told the agent it’s against federal law to mark the outside of a piece of luggage that there’s a firearm in it. She said those stickers aren’t specific to firearms, but I argued that anyone could figure out that indeed there are very likely firearms in those bags with those stickers.I lost the argument and then spoke to some TSA agents who were of no help. Thankfully, my gun and ammo was intact at my final destination (in all cases thus far).

    • Back in the “good old days” the only way I <i.would check luggage was with a ‘declared firearm’. It got a big red tag, and was taped to prevent ingress by the baggage sluggos. My luggage always arrived safe, unmolested, and generally first down the chute. This TSA security theatre has rings of thieves in most US airports – they just haven’t all been caught yet.

  5. Cases and locks won’t prevent this.

    If someone has the ability to get the case off site then they have all the time and tools in the world to open it.

    The answer is better hiring procedures.

    • How much more money are you willing to spend for everyone’s minimum wage though? Because at the rates they pay now for stuff like baggage handlers, you’re simply not going to fill vacancies by being picky.

      • I don’t know what the starting rate is. I know a bunch of people who sling bags at DIA and they all get paid quite well.

  6. Ja’Queef, Ja’Qoff, Ja’Whatever… sentenced to 5 out in18 months, he’ll end running as a congressman bitching about how inherently racist the system is.

    Any takers?

  7. Getting in any case with a zipper is too easy. That pisol-sized locked box is certainly not safe from Ja’Quan and his associates. I use a pelican 1560 as checked luggage. Even when flying into NYC, I take an unloaded 7 round magazine, declare it per FAA/TSA regs and then proceed to lock up my luggage with non-TSA locks. Oh, try to remove the “special handling” tags and stickers before handing your bag over.

    • Your bag misses the flight. They then have plenty of time to break in. Your bag will be delivered the next day, minus guns, camera and computer.
      Buy or charter a King Air, Cessna 182 or even a Piper Arrow… or drive or walk.

  8. Years ago, someone was caught with A LOT of stolen luggage from D-FW Airport. Some luggage belonged to my mother. She barely got $500.00 for everything she lost, which was tedious (who remembers exactly what they packed and how much it originally cost?) and didn’t cover everything. Don’t forget the cost of the luggage.

    Suspect was finally caught. Tried and sentenced? Never heard. Oh, we could try to claim clothing, but there’s a huge ICK factor in that.

    Wonder if Airlines are sticking to that $500.00 coverage? Especially when one item cost more than that.

    • At many airports, baggage security is weak. At Sky Harbor, there’s usually nothing to stop someone from picking a piece of luggage from the carousel and just walking off with it, which has been dome many times. When a stink is raised, there’s a check for a while, then it stops again. And the thefts start again.

  9. “We refuse to take responsibility for your checked baggage, so we recommend that you keep all valuables in the cabin with you in your carry-on luggage” (except for THAT)

  10. Time and time again when we are forced to lose rights we see that other crimes follow.

    Really losing patience with this stuff.

  11. That’s why I ship my gun to my destination UPS/FED Ex second day air. Couple days before flying out ship it to hotel address to myself. Pick it up at hotel at check in. Call ahead tell hotel your getting media material shipped for a presentation your giving. Solves issue of dealing with dopey airline /TSA agents who don’t know rules and hold you up at the counter

    • Yeah, but shipping rules are so bizarre. Long gun? USPS. Pistol? UPS or FedEx, and only from “authorized locations.” I had fun shipping a stripped lower to my son. I went to the post office and handed the clerk a small box and when asked, said that it was a “firearm.” Which it is, under federal law. she looks at the box and thinks I said pistol, and they can’t ship a pistol. I said , “nNo, it’s a firearm.” Then I had to explain that it was the lower receiver for an AR-10, but with no trigger, etc. It was entertaining.

      And why is it that an FFL can ship USPS but the rest of us can’t?

  12. Well my thoughts on it is cut off index finger and thumb on both hands and see how that Five finger discount works out for ya,
    20 years in prison is not 20 years anymore! What with early release for “good” behavior.

    I didn’t make it to 66 years old by being a candy butt. We tax paying citizens do not need a guy to get out in less than the full 20 because his next thing would probably be home invasion to steal your guns and ammunition. He needs to so old when he gets out that that only thing he’ll be stealing is some old ladies jello cup at the nursing home And believe me, you do not want to mess with senior citizens. Our knees hurt, kids don’t come to visit much. Don’t believe me, used to do therapy dog visits with my Golden Retrievers. Had to stop when the elderly were feeling my dog under the the table. A fat dog is not a healthy dog

  13. I just realized that the pistol in the picture is a SA 1911. Surprised no one jumped on that earlier.

  14. It ain’t just guns.

    Try flying with a chef’s knife roll. They told me to check it, not to check it; to pack so it couldn’t be opened, or opened easily; to declare what was in it, or not.

    Tools of a trade, and they don’t even have serial numbers. No chance of recovery. A couple of us were catering some friends’ wedding dinner as their present. Losing the gear would mess up the one shot at that.

    Did you ever get one of those snotty “hazardous contents” tickets *in* your bag? “This is how they told me to pack it.” impressed the baggage trolls not at all.

    I swear, next time I fly – it’s been years – I’m bringing my walking stick just to mess with them. If it’s gonna be political theater (of the absurd – but, I repeat myself) I might as well have some fun with it.

  15. Wait—somebody named Ja’Quan was a thief?

    Get the hell outta here.

    No way.

    I’m sure he has never been in trouble before.

  16. I hope Ja’Quan serves everyday of those twenty years. At some point blacks are going to have to start looking at whites as something besides a shopping center for their needs. They hold their destiny in their hands.

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