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Thread: Flying with handguns

  1. #1
    Join Date
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    Flying with handguns

    For those of our members who are in the United States and who might travel by air with handguns, there's a new wrinkle to be aware of.

    Background: I hope everyone is aware that it is not legal to carry a firearm with you on a commercial aircraft, or to have a firearm in your carry-on luggage. However, as long as your possession of the firearm is legal where you get on the plane and where your flight ends, it is legal to transport an unloaded firearm in your checked luggage. Such transport is subject to both federal law and the regulations of the particular airline you are flying. In general, for handguns the requirement is that the gun itself must be in a locked container designed for transporting handguns, and the passenger is the only person who is allowed to have the key or combination. The locked handgun case may be enclosed in a larger suitcase, which may or may not be locked.

    https://www.law.cornell.edu/cfr/text/49/1540.111 [scroll down to sub-section (c)(2)]

    In previous discussions of the legal issues pertaining to travel with handguns, more than once I have seen people advise that we must use "TSA locks." The TSA itself, for a long time, said on its web site that passengers traveling with guns should hand over the key for the gun case to a TSA inspector upon request. Obviously, the latter suggestion is a direct violation of the federal law. The law states that "(iv) The container in which it is carried is locked, and only the passenger retains the key or combination."

    That brings us to the so-called "TSA locks." TSA locks are locks (padlock or combination" that have provision for a master key that allows any TSA agent to open your lock without using your key and without any need for you to be present. It should be obvious, then, that using a "TSA lock" to secure a required gun case is also contrary to the federal law. If any TSA agent can unlock your gun case when you're not around, then you do not have the only key or combination. So use a non-TSA lock on the gun case, but you can use TSA locks on the outer suitcase in which the gun case is being transported.

    Now there's a new problem: We have known for a long time that some TSA agents abuse their position and steal from suitcases going through their inspection system. Now, however, it has come out that the TSA keys for opening TSA locks have been leaked, and can be reproduced by anyone who has a 3-D printer.

    https://theintercept.com/2015/09/17/...-locks-hacked/

    According to this article, the TSA doesn't care. Their position is that they are concerned with aviation security, so if someone uses a cloned copy of their special keys to steal from your checked luggage, that doesn't compromise aircraft security so they don't care.

    I don't have a good solution to offer. There is no law requiring you to use TSA locks on your suitcases. They are a convenience, because if the TSA decides they need to inspect the contents of your suitcase they can do so without calling you back to the screening area or simply cutting your lock off with a bolt cutter. If they decide to open your suitcase, they are not required to call you back to open it. They can just cut the lock off. If they do that, your bag(s) will go on from there to wherever you finally reclaim it/them without any lock. That's the reason for the TSA locks. If those locks have now been compromised (and it appears that they have been), it's a tough call whether to use a TSA lock even though you know it's not much protection, or to use a non-TSA lock and hope that either your bag(s) won't need to be opened, or that the TSA will call you if they need to open it/them.

    So ... no advice here, unfortunately, but a heads up for something else to worry about if you need to travel with a handgun.
    Hawkmoon
    On a good day, can hit the broad side of a barn ... from the inside

  2. #2
    Join Date
    2nd December 2004
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    The FAA has regulations for transporting guns in checked baggage.
    They are actually prety old and not all that complicated.

    The airlines have 'rules' that are intended to comply with FAA regulations.

    The idiots at TSA do not appear to have bothered reading the long standing FAA regulations before adding another layer of (mostly) to the problem.

    You have to obey all these layers all the time every time.
    TSA locks can only be userdf on the outer suitcase that MAY contain a firearm.
    They CANNOT be used on the inner container that contains the firearm.

    Just make sure you show up early and have someone that can take the firearm home with them.
    Then be prepared to wait.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    5th June 2004
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    Thumbs up

    Quote Originally Posted by brickeyee
    You have to obey all these layers all the time every time.
    TSA locks can only be used on the outer suitcase that MAY contain a firearm.
    They CANNOT be used on the inner container that contains the firearm.
    IMHO, there doesn't seem to be a requirement that TSA locks ONLY be used if there may be a firearm in the outer case. It's probably a good idea if you even think the TSA may want to paw around your undies.... They don't seem to have any recourse for you if there was nothing in the case. I flew home from DFW a couple years ago, and found a note in my suitcase that indicated they'd opened it. Later I found out that they'd seen all the wiring from assorted battery chargers and.... Nice note, though ....

    Some counter folks will demand a lock in each hole in the firearm case, BTW. Watch out for that.

    Combination locks more or less demand that you give the combination to everybody around the TSA examination area. Not really a great idea, IMHO.

    Bear in mind, too, that the locks on the outside of the case are primarily intended to back up the built-in locks. Some of those are particularly poor. In short, a way to avoid having the case pop open on-the-fly. They also tend to slow down the casual thief.

    Besides my wife my only problems have been "Why are you taking a gun with you to visit your sister?" and in TX, where the counterfolks didn't understand the card that must be signed and included with the firearm, or didn't know where they were. One gal called over a supervisor, who wanted to know why the gun, but really wasn't a problem.
    Stu.
    (Why write a quick note when you can write a novel?)
    ΜΟΛΩΝ ΛΑΒE
    יזכר לא עד פעם

  4. #4
    Join Date
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    Quote Originally Posted by SMMAssociates View Post
    Combination locks more or less demand that you give the combination to everybody around the TSA examination area. Not really a great idea, IMHO.
    In addition to not being a good idea ... it's explicitly against the law.

    (c)(2)(iv) The container in which it is carried is locked, and only the passenger retains the key or combination.
    Hawkmoon
    On a good day, can hit the broad side of a barn ... from the inside

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