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Reader Matt H. writes:

I flew through RDU today was told that it is impossible to bring the declared and checked bag containing my firearm to me or, as an alternative, bring me to the bag for screening. I would have to surrender the key. I spoke with the TSA supervisor and informed them of the statute. He told me the same thing. I then contacted the regional customer service manager for the TSA covering RDU via phone who confirmed the same thing. More alarmingly . . .

they told me not only do they not know what the law is, but that it doesn’t matter. They only know the procedure for that airport and if I didn’t like it to file a complaint.  I was told either I surrender it or I don’t fly…end of story.

I filed a complaint with the national TSA line who told me it would be going directly to that same customer service manager who told me they didn’t care (talk about accountability).  I’m not sure what else to do. I called the NRA whose rep said they would inform their boss and they may do something…but I’m not so sure this will happen. I wish there was some recourse, as right now it appears there is no way for someone to fly through RDU with a firearm if the bag needs to be screened without violating CFR 49.

Ironically none of the TSA agents would take the key from me as they didn’t want to assume liability (they treated it as if it was on fire).  They wanted an airline represented to take it from me.

As a little poke-in-my-eye bonus, they cut one of the locks in a matching set…even though they had the key. Thanks guys, stay classy.

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  1. I stopped flying when they started all this TSA nonsense. If the TSA goes away, maybe I’ll fly again.

    It’s just not with having my genitals groped to see Aunt Clara.

  2. I hate to say this but the airlines are totally anti-gun. what I do is I find a local gun shop and send my rifles to them pay the background check fee and transfer fee of usually 25 to 35 dollars and overnight my firearm to my hunting location. I can insure it and I don’t have to worry about it getting stolen out of luggage. it really sucks to be a hunter and have to use an airline! sorry to hear about this.

    • This^
      On a hunting/fishing trip to Alaska, my buddy and I fed exed our gats by two day air to the fed ex office in Ketchekan. Sent from me to me.
      No transfer fees. insured as “machine parts”. (Well, they are aren’t they?)

      • I love Machine Parts! I, uh, mean most of my machine parts were lost in a terrible boating incident. Wish I could buy .22 power pills for some machine parts easier.

        • I know it’s still kind of gougy, but if I ever NEED .22, say for an upcoming Appleseed, I can still get it at around $0.10 a round shipped. I’ve also gotten lucky more often lately at Wally World, Ace Hardware (of all places), and my LGS.

  3. Im glad I did not read this before I flew with a firearm for the 1st time just 2 weeks ago. I would of been even more nerves than I was.

    I flew out of Detroit Metro to Boozman to visit yellowstone. I had no problems at all.

  4. Well, if it wasn’t invented by George Wanker Bush, it wouldn’t be the Totally Stupid Administration, would it?

    (George, if you’re reading this, suck a camel penis and die, you Constitution hating penis-smoker)

  5. Batman of came out a little backwards what I was implying was you find a local gun shop near your hunting location make arrangements to overnight your firearm to the local gun store and pick it up there before going hunting and then shipping through the local gun store near your hunting location back to your local gun store where you live yes it’s about $100 to send it both ways transfer fees background check in and yes it is a pain in the ass but it’s a lot less money than having to replace a stolen rifle out of luggage and it happens all the time.

    • Why would you do a NICS check to claim a firearm you already own?

      There’s nothing in the law that says you gotta undergo a new background check just because you crossed state lines.

      It’s like a guy who brings in a weapon for me to fix. It’s his already, so when I’m done with it, he doesn’t have to do a NICS check to get it back.

      I understand having to pay the guy for his trouble, I just don’t see the need for a NICS check on both ends just to claim a weapon that’s already yours.

      • If you ship via UPS, you can take it directly to the main location, not a UPS Store as they are not owned by UPS and ship it. I would pick it up at their terminal at the receiving terminal.

        Here’s ATF’s answer:

        May a nonlicensee ship firearms interstate for his or her use in hunting or other lawful activity?

        Yes. A person may ship a firearm to himself or herself in care of another person in the State where he or she intends to hunt or engage in any other lawful activity. The package should be addressed to the owner. Persons other than the owner should not open the package and take possession of the firearm.

  6. The whole flying experience sucks. It has gotten to the point where, if I can’t drive there, I won’t go. Years ago, when I was in the ad business, and flying to various location TV shoots, passengers were treated like traveling royalty. Today, you’re regarded as a potentially dangerous nuisance, and expected to pay through the nose for the airline’s discourtesy. Screw ’em!

  7. I fly out of RDU all the time (I live in Chapel Hill) though never with a gun. Your concern applies to most everything that goes on there. They ain’t the best.

  8. I fly with guns all the time. I just give them the damn key, wait and get it back.

    Incompetent crooks.

    • Exactly, the T”SS”A is just another jobs program for those people that are too uneducated and too unprofessional to find another line of work.

  9. The local law enforcement agency that takes care of the airport would be my next contact. They often act as a go between for this sort of thing and can sometimes clean up the non sense.

  10. This was a comment left under a post about flying with guns that I wrote back in August 2013. You can find it here. Of all the stuff I wrote, it’s still just about my favorite.

    I hate that people are stuck with having to make the hard choice of either letting go of principle or not flying, for no reason other than some functionary’s ignorance.

    • Was this an adjoining flight where they would not bring your bag to you? I don’t really understand the op.

      • The Bear,

        When I would visit my mom in FL, I would fly into and out of West Palm Beach. Their screening was a bit odd. I would check in at the counter, declare the pistol, sign the tag, and I would be directed to sit in a nearby chair.

        After whatever screening was done, the agent would give the “OK” and I would go to the gate.

        Only once, was I directed to take my bag and follow the TSA agent to a room. I was directed to sit on a bench outside the door and the TSA agent took the bag into a room.

        After about 20 minutes, he came out and gave me the OK.

        I didn’t think to check the box until I got home at about 10PM that Sunday evening.

        The box had been partially pried open. The pistol was still inside. (WHEW!!)

        After that, I always tried to check on the box as soon as I got my bag from the baggage claim. I also now use a cable and lock the box to the suitcase frame.

        So far, so good.

      • This is for checking a bag at your initial departure city. Some airports have a screening area at the ticket counter, some it’s in the bowels of the airport. If it’s just behind the ticket counter, the ticket agent hands the bag to a TSA agent, who scans it and does further inspection if necessary. In this case, you should just wait by the ticket counter, watch him (they will inform him it contains a firearm) and he’ll give you a thumbs up when he is done, or ask for the key and re-lock the bag in your presence. If it’s in the bowels of the airport, they send your bag down the conveyor. If they need in it, they are supposed to page you and either bring it to you, or bring you to it to unlock it. Some airports will also have you take the bag to oversized baggage and page a TSA agent to come up and perform an inspection in that area with you present, then send you on your way.

    • Howdy, Matt.

      Thanks in large part to your article I flew from AZ up to WA state with an AR, AK and 1911. One of my friends up there is ex-army and his wife and kid immigrated from Russia. We had a great time with our little east vs west shoutout at an outdoor public range.

      The flights themselves were textbook–I had no trouble with security and even enjoyed a conversation with a TSA agent @ SeaTac who told me she was afraid of guns (I recommended she look for an introductory class or find someone with whom to visit a range and assured her of all the formal safety measures in place to make such experiences enjoyable).

      That was before their moronic background check law passed. It’s a shame that I couldn’t repeat that same trip today, but I’m glad I made that happen while I could.

      So thanks for your article; I would not have thought to fly with firearms had you not taken the time to outline the process.

      P.S. We need more Carnik Con around here. I haven’t seen much of their stuff since you stopped writing articles. 😉

      • Sorry to say that Carnik Con stopped production. Dugan Ashley was really ill (cancer I think). I miss that show.

      • Many/most airports are just fine. Arizona and Utah airports are quite used to travelers with firearms. I’ve never had problems leaving out of Tucson or Phoenix or Salt Lake. Also never had issues with Manchester airport in NH.

    • Thank you for your article and advice Matt in Fl. Your comments were spot on and served me well on my recent trip. I had no trouble whatsoever transporting my handgun in checked luggage. While the procedure was different at my starting and end points, it was still smooth.

      Note: I secured my handgun in a hard Pelican case with dual locks — which I then put inside my checked suitcase. TSA screeners never cared to get inside the case. They simply X-Rayed it and then forwarded it.

    • Is this a nightmare or what?

      Not if you are a gun-grabber … it is approaching utopia. Anything that disenfranchises firearms owners is good-to-go as far as gun-grabbers are concerned.

      • Approaching utopia?

        Say, *what*?

        The Heller and McDonald decision happened on Obama’s watch.

        And a beautiful, swift, and brutally hard kick to the nads it was for Progressives “across the fruited plain”.

        (Note: some areas of the fruited plain are more heavily fruited than others, YMMV)

        (That’s humor folks..)


        • You’re half right, McDonald v Chicago was under Obama’s first term (2010), but Heller v DC was under Dubbya in 2008. Obama was elected in ’08 but wasn’t inaugurated until 2009.

  11. For those of us that would rather drive than put up with the gonad-grabbers at airports, just wait, the T”SS”A will soon deploy Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response, aka VIPR, checkpoints on our highways. Coming to a highway near you.

  12. When flying with guns ,in reality the rules are what the Smurfs say they are.

    “O you disagree Mr Traveller? That’s OK. We’ve got eight hours left in our shift. Your flight taxis out in thirty minutes. Still wanna cite Federal law and keep the key -or do you want to make your connecting flight?”

    -Unofficial TSA ‘airport’ policy.

    • They are NOT supposed to get the friggin key. Lots of problems with that a few years ago from what I understand as guns were coming up missing. These people must be morons to ask for your key. Ask to open the case is OK with me. Though nobody yet has done that. Ask for the key is way out of line unless you are standing right there watching them and they give it right back to you. Who the Hell do you report this to? It is INSANE that they want your key to the gun box.

      • “They are NOT supposed to get the friggin key. Lots of problems with that a few years ago from what I understand as guns were coming up missing.”

        Has anyone whipped up a strong lock to somehow lock it to the inside of the suitcase?

        Something to keep the ‘honest’ sticky fingers at bay?

  13. Many moons ago you used to read articles in the gun rags about guys flying up to Alaska or Idaho or wherever. They walked on to the plane with the cased guns, whether long guns or handguns, spoke to the pretty stewardess and she put the case in the clothing closet up front. NOW, there is sooo much politically incorrect and illegal with what I just described.

  14. I fly out of SeaTac aiport (Seattle/Tacoma, WA) a few times a year to Las Vegas airport. No problem on either end. Check in, tell them there is a firearm in my bag that will be checked. They give me some paperwork and direct me to the TSA guy across from the airline checkpoint. Walk over there and meet with the TSA agent. He or she asks me a few questions and uses some kind of strip to check for traces of drugs or something like that. They ask me if I have the key to the locked gun box in the suitcase. I say yes and they put some paperwork in the suitcase and I am on my way. The definitely do NOT want the key and are NOT supposed to have it according to the regulations I read. They are always cordial and same on the other end in McCarren airport in Las Vegas. The procedure flying Alaska is smoother, for some reason than other airlines I have tried. I even get to go to the front of the screening line (after checking my bag) and am treated like a pre-screened passenger when flying with Alaska Air. Not so with Southwest. Not sure why. Southwest has no checked bag fee and Alaska charges $25 each way. But the process is so smooth with Alaska it seems worthwhile to go with them. Really like the pre-assigned seats with Alaska compared to Southwest system also.

  15. Several years ago, delta or the tsa cut the locks off my gun case in Colorado Springs on my way to Junior Olympics. Obviously, this was illegal.

    I got to re-assemble and dry fire it in the terminal under the supervision of a Marine. But, I was obviously pissed. I’m still not convinced that they didn’t break it, because it started needing parts replaced about a month later and never was back up to 100%, but I couldn’t prove anything.

    I wasn’t informed of anything. They didn’t ask me for the keys. It just came out on the belt with the locks missing.

    It was easier to fly to Europe and back. And, yeah. Never since. I just pay the ffl fees.

  16. Stating– with regards to the TSA– after 9-11 that creating another government agency was a mistake and unnecessary was literally the only thing I agreed with GW Bush about.

    Then he went and stayed bought like a bitch. And here we are.

  17. When you need direct legal action wrt gun rights, contact SAF first, rather than NRA. They’re more experienced at it.

  18. Flew up to Greenville from Tampa once. Bag had clearly been ransacked, but the guns were put back… Both locks broken and strap I put around the suitcase through the handle had been cut/removed, never seen again.

    Can’t drive there, don’t go there.

  19. Always travel with a spare lock. That pisses TSA into spitting guttural sounds and hopefully vapor lock. They just hate that travelers are smarter.

    Did you contact your representatives to Congress? File a complaint with the TSA IG?

  20. Flying with guns in the past has never been a problem out of Tampa to where ever but I now avoid it by shipping the guns to myself via UPS or FedEx. Long guns or hand guns its legal under federal law to do this. Address the package to your name C/O where you will be staying or have held at the local shippers office. I have a letter from our local BATFE contact that while she won’t speak to local laws verified that federal law allows it. Copy follows…
    “Hi Jim,

    Federal Law states that a person may ship a firearm to himself or herself in care of another person in the State where he or she intends to hunt or engage in any other lawful activity. The package should be
    addressed to the owner. Persons other than the owner should not open
    the package and take possession of the firearm.

    Of course, I can’t speak to any specific State of Colorado laws.

    I hope business is going well!


    Lisa *****
    ATF-Tampa II Field Office

  21. I fly regularly with my carry gun and have had zero problems, just avoid flying into/out of any airport in NY or NJ…

  22. Had the same problem out of RDU last week. I tried arguing but it quickly became apparent he didn’t give a flip about TSA regs, they need to look inside. Nothing gone, just messed up, however pistols were in a separate locked case chained to the frame.

    I’ll be avoiding RDU when traveling heavy.

  23. Negative experiences stick out in everyone’s mind, but to bring some good cheer…

    An Allegiant employee walked me up to the front of the line when I explained I couldn’t curb check my luggage at Punta Gorda (if you’ve ever flow out of there, the lines can get really long. It’s a little airport that I believe only Allegiant flys to). Of course that same day, it took me five minutes to convince the lady at the counter that the “firearms unloaded” tag goes inside the case, not attached to the outside.

    Generally though, flying with firearms has kind of been a no nevermind for me.

    • I find it useful to have the airline’s firearm policy web page pulled up on my phone browser prior to dealing with counter agents. Makes it easy to show them the policy if there’s any confusion.

      Of course, it’s not yet been an issue. I’ve only flown United in the midwest with firearms, and their agents have thankfully all known their airline’s policy.

  24. I fly out of RDU to San Antonio and occasionally Austin pretty regularly. In most cases I check a couple of pistols but frequently I take my AR. I have never had an issue on the firearms side. 90% of the time I’m going Southwest and everyone involved is courteous, respectful and efficient. There’s a number of things I do to make things smoother and less stressful on myself and it’s paid off thus far.

  25. Had the same issue traveling out of LAS with NFA firearms. Long story short: TSA refused to follow the outlined procedures. I even had printed copies of the procedure. I had to give the key to an airline supervisor while they accompanied the TSA agent to inspect the case behind security and out of my view.

  26. A high-ranking commissioner in the British (imperial) foreign service over a century ago noted that government employees pay attention to the law only insofar as they are required to by circumstances, and that in the law’s place they do what seems right to them. If a bureaucracy with a monarchial authority over it couldn’t enforce the enforcers so that what they enforced was the law, we have no chance.

    It has been reality since the Byzantine Empire that it is the bureaucrats who have the power. They are the ones in place long-term, with connections, with time to learn all the tricks to finesse the system, with the experience to make it appear they are doing what their overlords bid while they continue to run things as they wish. Imposing term limits on Congress would have little effect; the long-term bureaucrats would continue to make every law mean what they wish it to and fashion the regulations to make it so.

  27. I have personally flown through RDU with firearms 3 times in the last year, including once less than a month ago, and I’ve never had the slightest hint of a problem.

    Not saying that what you’re describing didn’t happen (anything goes with these TSA Goons), but it’s not impossible to fly through RDU with firearms.

  28. San Jose (SJC) airport operates with this same procedure, so this isn’t a complete anomaly. Seriously though, you already went through the the machine that x-Rays your junk, just give them the key and follow their procedure. Trying to correct them on something like this is not going to win you points with people who have full control of you and your while you are in he airport. Plus, I doubt you are be first person to check a gun there.

    Every airport I’ve been to in the U.S. operates a little differently, and sometimes you just need to go with the flow. Or prepare for a less than fun experience. Clearly the way he law is supposed to work is just too hard for some people. Fill out he card, put it in the bag, then when the x-ray machine shows a gun, they shouldn’t need to open the locked case, because there is your little card saying yes, there is a gun inside this case, inside my checked bag.

    One time in Las Vegas, the airport desk agent wanted me to take the pistol out and show her it was unloaded, there in the middle of the check in line, so things could be weirder.

    • I called the airport about that sign the last time I flew out with a firearm. Was told just to have the gun in the locked case ready to fly and didn’t have a single issue.

  29. The problem is we all stand up and say no new law enforce what we have. What happens when they hammer us for breaking fed law trapping us with tsa agents who refuse to obey the law so we hand over the key and boom felony.

  30. Weird. I’ve flown out of RDU a couple times with guns and they’ve never even bothered to have me open the locked box with the gun. Everybody has known the procedure, and it’s been rather pleasant.

    Get to the counter and declare the unloaded, locked firearm, finish my business there and I was met by two airline representatives who took me to a secondary screen area and opened my bag, verified the lockbox was locked, and then they sent it down the line and sent me on my way.

    • For those who’ve flown through RDU before…I agree, I fly weekly and I haven’t had any problems prior. The first week out I talked with the airline agent, they paged TSA who confirmed that they no longer go to oversized baggage, but that they simply run it through and page the gate if they need in. Then….the first time they want to get into it, all hell breaks lose…all previous conversations were off and chaos ensued. Even being well prepared is no guarantee. Apparently since these incidents…the old methodology is back in place…page TSA, go to oversized baggage for inspection. I advise everyone to call the local TSA manager prior to flying to get the procedure for that location…if it doesn’t make sense, or sounds like it won’t work without making you surrender the key, argue then and get it sorted prior to your flight.

  31. I wish I could avoid flying, but with family in the Philippines, it’s a long tough drive getting there by car from Pennsylvania. I have never tried flying anywhere with firearms because my departure airport is typically in Newark, NJ or JFK in NY, but I can only imagine the horror of trying to get to and from the Philippines with a firearm for any kind of competition.

  32. Had a very similar experience at Newark Airport last month.

    They took my rifle case and key behind a set of “employee-only” doors.

    About five minutes later the airline employee came back with my key and said “you are good to go.”

    How do I know that they didn’t steal, plant, or break anything?

    I didn’t until I got to my hotel room about 10 hours later. Very inappropriate.


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