Loaded Gun Falls Out Of Checked Bag. Feeling Secure At Airports Yet?

from the grope-grope-grope dept

It’s always fun for me when Techdirt has stories about the TSA, but perhaps not for the same reasons as everyone else here. By that, I mean that the range of reaction to such stories always strikes me as incredibly varied. Get a story about the TSA working with the cosmopolitan state of Tennessee to check drivers for whatever it is they check for, and you’ll get serious responses about our civil liberties being eroded. Write about these all-world defenders of truth and justice laying the smackdown on a possible-terrorist but confirmed breast cancer survivor and her mammory implants, and truly flabbergasted readers will demand action from our politicians. Relate the words of the guy that created the TSA to begin with and his apprehension about where the agency has gone in its off-broadway tour of security theatre, and you’ll even get some folks defending the TSA in the comments. These are all well and good, true opinions and feelings from either side; the stirring of a wonderful national debate.

Me? I just like to laugh. And no one has made me laugh lately like the TSA.

Gumnos alerts us (without a patdown, no less) to a USA Today story of how LAX’s airport security is trying to define ironic comedy. At least, that’s what I assume they’re doing, because otherwise it means that some of their people may be in need of an IQ test. Look, no security is perfect. Something is going to sneak through occasionally. And we’ve been told the terrorists are creative, hiding exposives in their shoes (laces out, Dan), their underwear (I’m assuming they have to go with tighty-whities here, right? Or else everything would just kind of fall out?), and we’ve been told that the clearly deep-thinking and well-funded terrorist networks around the world are looking into hiding a multi-megaton nuclear warhead in a hair bonnet.

But what you don’t expect to encounter is what happened at LAX. And that’s for a loaded .38 caliber pistol to kind of just fall out of a passenger’s duffel bag as it was being loaded onto the plane. Now, to be fair, the TSA promptly and proudly announced that it isn’t their duty to screen anything but carryon luggage, as if this was some kind of a win for them. But all that makes me wonder is why a federal agency in charge of ensuring safe transportation is more concerned with slapping around our meaty bits than, oh I don’t know, checking the damned luggage that goes on the plane! Again, this is not carryon luggage, but rather checked luggage. But how does it make any sense to parse out different sets of luggage to be checked by different agencies with potentially different equipment and…You know what? I’m not going to try to make sense of this for fear of a complete mental breakdown.

Still, I’m all about the positivity, which is why I pictured myself standing in line, waiting to board the plane (why am I always in Group D, damn it?) and watching the baggage handlers out the window lovingly slam my stuff into the luggage compartment, when a loaded .38 pistol comes spinning out of the bag and lands on the tarmac. After a moment of watching the handlers stare dumbly at each other for a moment, I burst out laughing, pointing at the gun, then back at the airline employees, then off in the distance where some TSA agent is playing puppet with a 98 year old triple amputee (try figuring that one out), then back at the gun. Rinse, repeat. Rinse, repeat.

So take a moment to thank the TSA for all the laughs.

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Comments on “Loaded Gun Falls Out Of Checked Bag. Feeling Secure At Airports Yet?”

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60 Comments
Rick Falkvinge (user link) says:

This is halfway as it should be

Actually, this is the way you SHOULD transport a firearm: in the checked luggage, as opposed to in the carryon. It is not illegal to travel with weapons you are licensed for.

Now, to fulfill some more safety rules, of course the gun shouldn’t have been loaded, and probably taken halfway apart. But the gun should absolutely go into the checked luggage.

Also, who packs their luggage so bad that things start falling out in handling?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 This is halfway as it should be

and put your fingers where they don’t belong. You probably just ‘did your job’ because you otherwise could not feel confident about yourself. In any case, they should drag the lot of you to prison and keep them there for a loong looong time. Your kind is a disease and if anything, please do us a favor and score yourself a Darwin award.

AJ (profile) says:

Re: Re: This is halfway as it should be

“This fault lies entirely with the owner of the weapon.”

I disagree, I think they share guilt. Yes the weapon should have been unloaded, but shouldn’t the airline be responsible for verifying that the weapon was unloaded before loading it on a passenger airplane?

If the airline is not verifying if a weapon is loaded/unloaded before putting it on an airplane, they have no business fondling my banana hammock before putting me on an airplane….

papapump (profile) says:

Re: Re: This is halfway as it should be

Exactly what I was thinking. I actually felt the moment of fear that the baggage handlers must have felt, watching that revolver fall to the ground. Some compact revolvers these days are hammerless, and most have some sort of safeguard against accidental discharge, but the idea of a .38 falling on its hammer and firing scares the crap out of me. The gun owner is an idiot.

Wonderboy14 says:

Re: This is halfway as it should be

Actually you’re only half right. Admittedly I do live in a semi nanny-free state so actually, yes, you should transport your firearms locked in checked luggage but you can take your licensing requirement and shove it. Background check that’s fine, but it’s no one’s business how many or what weapons I own.

That reminds me… I’ve been meaning to pick up a new pistol. Shouldn’t take more than an hour. I could take a long lunch and even break it in at the range before I come home… that minty fresh taste of freedom makes me smile.

John Doe says:

Re: Re: This is halfway as it should be

that minty fresh taste of freedom makes me smile.

Enjoy the taste while it lasts because it is going away fast. It is a sad time we live in when people are giving up their rights without so much as a squeak. I am sure the founding fathers were worried about our rights being taken away but I wonder if the thought ever crossed their mind that we would be gladly giving them up one day?

papapump (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: This is halfway as it should be

Californian living in Oregon here. Waiting periods, registration and background checks just seem natural to me, because I grew up with those stipulations. Now that I live in Oregon, I know some truely enthusiastic gun owners that would fight tooth and nail to prevent those things in this state.

Oregon doesn’t have the crime issue that California supposedly does (I’m from rural North California, so I didn’t really see that, it’s a different California than the one the rest of the country hears about), so I understand the more lax (HAHA!) views on the matter. But, being somewhat of a libertarian, this matter could be resolved without any actual legislation. The courts have proven willing to hold manufacturers potentially liable for their products. If gun sellers had a similar responsibility to the public, as they should, they would jump through the hoops willingly to make sure thier customers were legit.

Wow…off topic.

Dementia (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 This is halfway as it should be

Gun manufacturers are not, and should not be, liable for the actions of someone else. If the weapon functions as designed and no malfunction cause a death or injury, it is the operator of the weapons responsibility. Unless of course you want to hold auto manufacturers liable when someone is killed by a vehicle functioning they it was designed, but operated by someone with some sort of impairment.

xenomancer (profile) says:

You Know, I Do Feel Safer Now

I am comforted by the knowledge that should the movie Air Force One occur in real life (let’s be honest, the TSA would be more concerned with testicles and breasts than AK-47’s), Harrison Ford would be able to find a reasonable supply of armaments in the luggage area when he gets back on the plane half way through.

Also, this happens to be the one loaded weapon (out of how many?) to accidentally fall out of luggage. I’m not saying they’re letting through 90 wt% loaded armaments, but if the TSA isn’t involved than you don’t even get a show.

Lastly, if it “isn’t the duty” of the TSA to screen checked bags, why do they insist on letting us all know they were rutting around in them with a little plastic tag where our crippled locks used to be? I can take that as a sort of dark punchline to an otherwise dark joke, but this is one of those moments where I have to question the directors motives in changing up the theatrics.

:Lobo Santo (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Firearm Transportation

I don’t fly (can’t stand security theatre) and therefore shan’t bother reading aforementioned rules–it just seems like the sort of thing such government agency(ies) would do.

Agency A: Guns must be locked, unloaded, in checked luggage!

Agency B: Locked ANYTHING in your luggage means you’re a terrorist!

Ya know, that sort of thing.

Beta (profile) says:

haplophobia

That gun certainly should not have been packed loaded, and not packed so carelessly that it could just fall out like that; there was a small but non-zero chance that it could have gone off when it hit the tarmac or some other hard surface (depending on the state of the safety catch and a few other things) and injured somebody.

I see nothing wrong with a checked bag containing an unloaded gun. What’s it gonna do, bluff the other suitcases into handing over their jewels?

out_of_the_blue says:

"And no one has made me laugh lately like the TSA."

Inappropriate response to jack-booted thugs. I think you’ve just encapsulated the present American decline: people are unable to deal with reality, just burst into laughs when “some TSA agent is playing puppet with a 98 year old triple amputee”. — The only adult response is rage, even if no action is taken.

This “dark humor” piece falls flat, as usual. It’s difficult NOT to suspect that /you’re/ giving your actual reaction.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: "And no one has made me laugh lately like the TSA."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slash_(punctuation)#In_English_text

Making up a new use for slashes does not make you seem less stupid then using caps all the time. Do the books your read highlight the important words in sentence? Are they reading primers for 4th graders? Write your sentences well and have a clear point and the reader will understand the important words. Rambling morons are the only people who need to add emphasis to individual words.

Anonymous Coward says:

Tim, nice bit of writing, but your anger is somewhat misplaced.

The “loaded” part is the fault of the gun owner. Transporting a weapon should be done in a secure manner, and any failure to do so goes back to the gun owner.

It is also clear that the gun was in checked baggage, and not a carry on. While I know you (and many others) want to stick it to the TSA every chance you get, please understand that a gun in checked baggage is less dangerous than even the smallest of weapons in the hands of a flier on the plane.

I get your outrage, but I think it is very misdirected here. Call out the stupid flier for not clearing his gun and not properly securing it in his checked luggage, don’t call out the TSA for somehow not being clairvoyant.

AJ (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“Call out the stupid flier for not clearing his gun and not properly securing it in his checked luggage, don’t call out the TSA for somehow not being clairvoyant.”

The flier is indeed an idiot and should be held accountable, but they weapons should have never made it onto the luggage cart loaded as it was.

I think just taking the weapon owners word that a firearm is unloaded without a visual verification from a qualified TSA or airline representative is a HUGE failure in security.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

“The flier is indeed an idiot and should be held accountable, but they weapons should have never made it onto the luggage cart loaded as it was.”

Okay, outside of clairvoyance or magic, exactly how is the TSA suppose to know if a gun is loaded or not, especially when it is being transported legally in checked luggage? I don’t think people even have to declare the fire arm if it is in checked luggage, do they? If they do, wouldn’t it be the responsibility of the counter agent checking the bags in to assure this before the flyer is separated from their luggage?

AJ (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

“kay, outside of clairvoyance or magic, exactly how is the TSA suppose to know if a gun is loaded or not, especially when it is being transported legally in checked luggage?”

By inspecting it at check in and tagging it unloaded, just like they are supposed to do?

“If they do, wouldn’t it be the responsibility of the counter agent checking the bags in to assure this before the flyer is separated from their luggage?”

Yes, they have to declare it, and yes the guy checking in the bag should be making sure it’s unloaded, or if they can’t, finding an agent that can. That’s why i said “visual verification from a qualified TSA or airline representative”

Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“Tim, nice bit of writing, but your anger is somewhat misplaced.”

Well, thanks for the compliment. Now let’s see if I can explain my “anger”.

“The “loaded” part is the fault of the gun owner. Transporting a weapon should be done in a secure manner, and any failure to do so goes back to the gun owner.”

Let’s take that train of thought to its logical, if absurd, conclusion. The 3000 deaths on 9/11 were the fault of Al Quaeda, not the federal govt. that failed to protect us, so we should only blame Islamic extremists, not the CIA/FBI/etc. But that doesn’t make sense. The whole point of the TSA is to protect flights, and a loaded weapon loose in luggage is a security issue they failed to address, possibly because they were too busy counting the number of curlies on my coin-purse.

“It is also clear that the gun was in checked baggage, and not a carry on. While I know you (and many others) want to stick it to the TSA every chance you get, please understand that a gun in checked baggage is less dangerous than even the smallest of weapons in the hands of a flier on the plane.”

Here is where it’s important to realize that not every plane that flies out of major airports like LAX are jumbo 747’s that most folks are used to. There are several plane models still in commission which have floor access to baggage compartments. This is particularly true of flights that allow pet transportation, in which luggage compartments are not fully pressurized for fear of Fido turning into a big pile of dead. In other words, there are cases where a passenger overpowering the stewardess crew chief could access luggage. Not likely, but then neither was a series of planes flying into the WTC and all that.

“I get your outrage, but I think it is very misdirected here. Call out the stupid flier for not clearing his gun and not properly securing it in his checked luggage, don’t call out the TSA for somehow not being clairvoyant.”

We can disagree, and I respect that, but this isn’t a matter of clairvoyance. It’s simply a matter of the TSA wearing the security mantle so that they can slap my nuts around and then falling back on the “WE DON’T CHECK CHECKED BAGGAGE” excuse when this bullshit happens.

Rekrul says:

Re: Re: Re:

Here is where it’s important to realize that not every plane that flies out of major airports like LAX are jumbo 747’s that most folks are used to. There are several plane models still in commission which have floor access to baggage compartments.

Call me uninformed, but I thought that all modern planes had access to the baggage compartment in case of emergencies.

WDS (profile) says:

TSA is responsible

TSA does screen, and is responsible for checked bags as well as carry on. The screenings for checked bags emphasize explosives rather than hand weapons.

The gun falling out does not meet the shipping requirements for transporting a weapon, but it is perfectly legal to have an unloaded weapon in the baggage compartment.

The TSA messes up so much. I think we should focus on the things that matter. If we scream about the petty things it makes the screams about the true injustices more easily ignored.

Anonymous Coward says:

As someone who has checked in weapons many times; unloaded firearm verification is done by the checkin counter, NOT the TSA. They have you show them the firearm, they put in a little piece of paper that says it’s unloaded, then you lock it up in a hard case and put that case into your luggage. When your luggage is scanned, there’s zero chance that an xray will be able to determine if that little piece of paper is indeed in there or not as xrays can’t read paper. Also, there’s probably a very low chance that the xray will be able to see into the gun’s chamber/cylinder/magazine to determine if it’s loaded or not because guns are metal (who would have guessed?!).

Also I’m wondering what kind of firearm it was and if there was a round in the chamber if semi-automatic. If there wasn’t a round in the chamber, there’s essentially a 0.0000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000001% chance of a round firing when the gun is dropped to the ground because it would require racking the slide first, and that’s nearly impossible to do without human intending to do it.

Lord Binky says:

Re: Re:

So… We use the honor system for check-in luggage that when scanned, contains weapons that fails to meet the minimum safety requirement of being in it’s own locked hard case?

Sounds like the TSA is trying to play security by only watching the main entrance while the back door is unlocked and wide open. Have they considered it only takes someone throwing a make-up kit with a tag onto a checked luggage cart to get what they want on any plane? Hell, they just have to work at the pizza hut inside the airport for a few months to grow familiarity with their face, and they can “get lost” anywhere they want. Whatever, it’s only like gravity, it only exists if you believe it.

Anonymous Coward says:

I almost always travel with my gun. That being said, I always bring a copy of the procedures document. I generally find myself walking the TSA agents through the process of checking and clearing my weapon as well as reminding them what the requirements of checking a weapon are.

I can say with a decent amount of certainty that there is not a lot of training on handling firearms in checked baggage.

Overcast (profile) says:

Enjoy the taste while it lasts because it is going away fast. It is a sad time we live in when people are giving up their rights without so much as a squeak. I am sure the founding fathers were worried about our rights being taken away but I wonder if the thought ever crossed their mind that we would be gladly giving them up one day?

And you can prod a sleeping bear – without it even moving for a while.. but eventually, it’ll wake up – and when it does.. it’ll be pissed.

Montezuma (profile) says:

Firearms are allowed on planes, albeit not in this way.

You guys do understand that civilians can bring firearms onto planes, but there are restrictions to this. It isn’t as if civilians can bring loaded firearms into the passenger compartments of the plan. Though, I believe civilians should be able to do that, such a discussion is for another place.

In order to bring a firearm onto a plane, the firearm must be:

1. Unloaded, which included, most annoyingly, removing all ammunition from the firearm’s magazine(s).

2. The firearm(s), ammunition, and magazine(s) must all be locked in a secured container. This container must be loaded into the passenger’s checked luggage. The passenger has to, stupidly, open the container, allow for inspection, the lock the container.

The passenger, not the airline, nor some governmental agent, must maintain the key, or other entry device. Also, the luggage cannot be marked to notate that a firearm is held within, for obvious reasons. I have found the cases I carry my rifles and/or handguns in pried at, but never fully opened, thanks to the wonderful engineering of the manufacturer of my firearm cases.

3. The firearm must be declared at the checked luggage counter. If this step is missed or avoided, this can cause problems for the passenger.

4. No more than fifty(50) round of ammunition can be carried onto the plane. This is really irritating, as this means that I have to pay a lot of money for 500 to 2,000 round of ammunition wherever I ended up traveling to. This gets expensive, as there is not always a police supply, or other discount ammunition outlet where I am traveling to.

Other rules will depend on the airline you are traveling with. I have run into many stupid people that give me a “what do we do with this?” look when I go to check my firearm(s). I even run into, on rare occasions, where these idiots will want to removed my firearm(s), in view of everyone, to “check” the firearm(s), which they are unable to successfully maneuver.

If my traveling were not so important, I wouldn’t do it. The only problem is that those classes will not teach themselves.

Paul (profile) says:

This might have been mentioned, but wasn’t there a story a while back about a guy smuggling guns to the UK in checked baggage?

Last time I went thru LAX they were piss poor all round, with more people standing around with vacant looks in there eyes and one poor bastard checking everyone’s passport with people queuing back for 90 minutes.

That’ll serve me right for flying on a tuesday morning when its quiet.

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