Hubris From TSA Over Box Of "Bullets"

AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File

What are we taught when we’re children? One of the lessons that I learned is that everyone makes mistakes. As our readers know, when it comes to anything firearm related, mistakes can be costly in many ways. The obvious involving gross negligence leading to death. Then there are the matters of criminal and civil penalties. What about the curious case of a man who recently was “busted” trying to board a plane who accidentally left a box of ammunition in his carry-on luggage?

On July 14, 2021, Lisa Fabstein, a TSA Spokesperson tweeted:

There is a bit going on here that I think is worth exploring. Noted above, this probably was a mistake. Making the claim that the man was “unaware” that he had the cartridges in his carry-on is quite possible. I don’t think it’s a good situation (dumb), but a valid argument. Since Fabstein decided to focus on this “excuse” as being ridiculous enough for her to “ask for a friend”, how about we set the record straight?

Lisa, what we are looking at is a box of cartridges. Not bullets. If it were just a box of bullets, the gentleman would have inert pieces of useless lead. Would a box of bullets still be an issue coming through a TSA security checkpoint? Probably. But none-the-less, your attitude towards someone that more than likely did make an “honest” mistake should not be applauded. Jump online or head to a bookstore and get yourself a book on basic firearms and ammunition. This way the next time you decide to shame someone, at least you don’t sound obtuse. Know what you’re talking about.

The box of cartridges pictured is not shown with a scale that is labeled. It appears the measurements are one inch squares. Had that box of “bullets” been put next to say a dollar bill or a ruler, metric or standard – choose your poison, people seeing your tweet would notice the box was incredibly small. From what I can tell this was a box of CCI brand Velocitor .22 caliber rounds (at a good price too). This is ammunition designed for varmint hunting. While I don’t have an exact size of the box, based on rough measurements a friend made for me, it would have been approximately three inches long, one and five eighth’s wide, and an inch and a quarter in height. Essentially about the size of a wireless headphone charging dock you’d slip into your pocket. Given that, is it so difficult to be “unaware” the box was in his bag? No, it’s not.

The alleged fact that the individual in question was not aware the box of cartridges was in his bag, in my opinion, does not have to be disputed. What does however need to be discussed is, why on Earth would he be traveling with a bag that would end up with any type of shooting paraphernalia in it in the first place? When I work with students, I do my best to educate them on not allowing any of their gear do “double duty”. If you use a bag for the range, hunting, or fill-in-the-blank involving firearms, do not use it as carry-on luggage. This topic comes up a lot and I’ve written about it more than once:

Whatever you do decide to use for a range bag, make sure you dedicate it to use for the range only. Don’t have a bag that does double duty like a carry-on for air travel. Residues and chemical compounds that you can pick up while shooting would make those nifty machines the TSA agents use go bananas. You also do not want to put yourself in the position where you inadvertently end up bringing ammunition on a plane. A co-worker of mine once had a fully loaded magazine in his carry-on bag while flying out of California. He ended up having the magazine and ammunition confiscated. How he did not end up in a custodial situation is beyond me, especially in California. I also recently talked with an associate that ended up being one of those guys that forgot to take his loaded pistol out of his carry-on. He was arrested and it was a mess…How did that happen? Using a bag for double duty!

The moral of the story here is don’t end up like “that guy”, having your box of .22 caliber “bullets” being tweeted by some jerk at the TSA that only wants to talk down to you. Be diligent in making sure any type of “contraband” will not be going with you somewhere it should not. That includes courthouses, federal buildings, and obviously airports.

The other moral is for the TSA, specifically Lisa Farbstein. There is no need to be a jerk with your tongue in cheek question. You’re not being hip “asking for a friend”. This was probably an honest mistake, as the individual indicated. A stupid mistake, but more than likely honest. In my estimation, this is going to cost him some money. Shaming people like this is a perfect example of how federal workers, ESPECIALLY TSA Agents, can develop a bad reputation. I’d urge you to take a page of out of Ellen DeGeneres’s book and “be kind”, but that’s probably a bad example. Next time something like this comes across your desk, a friendly reminder might be in order, you blew it on a good teachable moment:

“Hey everyone, a passenger accidentally tried to bring this box of ammunition through security. Remember, you can’t have ammunition in your carry-on! But you can in your checked bag if it’s declared and done so properly. Please reference our guidance document on the subject. #yolo #cupcakes #tsaforlife #hisbad #fomo”

Educate, don’t humiliate.