Guns And Planes

I glance down at my watch and see that my flight window is closing quickly, especially if I have to go through the checkpoint again. He doesn't want to hear it. I show him my retired LEO ID; I may as well have shown him a picture of last year's family...


I've been retired for five years; I work for a private company as a LE trainer. I'm required to bring weapons with me to the job, most of which I have to travel to by airplane. While I was still an FBI Agent I never had any problem carrying a weapon when I traveled by air; I simply presented my credentials at the security checkpoint and then made my way to the gate. That was then, this is now.

Now, I'm just a member of the herd which is no big deal. I have no problem submitting to whatever protocol has been established to board an airplane. Having been a cop and an agent all of my adult life, I'm a law and order guy. I like it when there are rules in place to guide people and safeguard things like travel. What I don't like is when the rules are ambiguous and arbitrary... when they can be interpreted differently by individuals in the same agency. Let me explain.

I was returning home from a job last week and was at an airport in the South. I had a couple of Glock pistols with me that I declared to the ticket agent at check-in. This is where the absurdity of the TSA regulations concerning firearms in checked baggage begins. The ticket agent told me that I'd needed to show her the weapons. No problem. I opened my luggage, took out the hard case with a padlock securing it and unlocked it. She told me that I had to show her that they were both unloaded - I complied by locking the slides to the rear and showing her the empty chambers and empty magazines. I re-secured the weapons and lock, signed the short form, and then she taped a bright orange sticker on top of the case that read, FIREARMS UNLOADED.

This same airline at a different airport several weeks ago simply asked me if the weapons were unloaded - to which I replied, yes - and then had me fill out a form. She never asked to see the weapons; she simply threw the declaration inside my suitcase and sent it on its way. On other occasions, I have had to wait while a TSA officer was summoned to take me aside to check my weapons. Almost all of them have no clue about firearms - how they work, nomenclature, etc., yet they are sent to check people who transport them in luggage. Most never handle the weapons; they simply use two fingers to feel the Styrofoam padding inside of the case. What they're checking for I'm uncertain of, yet they go out of their way not to touch the guns. I carry handguns, rifles, and Tasers. TSA agents have never physically touched them to ensure they were unloaded. On occasion, especially in New York, they will summon a cop assigned to the airport to conduct the inspection. They will do a safety check, question you as to why you're carrying the guns, and then send you on your way.

Last week's episode was a bit much for me. I checked in at the ticket counter and declared that I had two pistols, as I described above, then went through the controlled stampede at the security checkpoint. (That's another story for later, having been cleared twice even though I had a knife in my possession). As I'm heading for my gate, and my flight departure window is closing, I am summoned back to the ticket counter via the public address system.

I make my way back where I am met by a uniformed TSA officer. Incidentally, TSA has recently changed their uniform to resemble a police uniform - dark blue shirts and gold badges - I'm not sure why they did that but I hope that it wasn't to give the impression that they are cops - they're not. The officer advises me that my weapon is not secure in the case. I reply that I've been through at least 100 check-ins using that same case and lock and have never had anyone tell me that. I glance down at my watch and see that my flight window is closing quickly, especially if I have to go through the checkpoint again. He doesn't want to hear it. I show him my retired LEO ID; I may as well have shown him a picture of last year's family reunion for all the impact that it made.

This content continues onto the next page...
  • Enhance your experience.

    Thank you for your regular readership of and visits to Officer.com. To continue viewing content on this site, please take a few moments to fill out the form below and register on this website.

    Registration is required to help ensure your access to featured content, and to maintain control of access to content that may be sensitive in nature to law enforcement.