TSA Correlates Gun Owners and Violence (Un)Knowingly?

AP Photo/Michael Dwyer

In this week’s TSA Firearm Detections Weekly Update, you can read about your run of the mill “oops, I forgot to take my gun outta my bag” situations. We all know that the carriage of firearms and other weapons on airplanes is highly regulated. Sure, there are things that you can put in your checked bag, such as a firearm (if properly declared and stored). It’s obvious in a post 911 world (or ever that I can remember), no, you can’t bring a gun onto an airplane on your person or in your carryon. The article corroborates this:

Travelers are not permitted to carry their guns onto airplanes, however, passengers are allowed to transport their firearms as checked baggage if they are properly packed and declared at their airline ticket counter to be transported in the belly of the plane with checked baggage. Checked firearms must be unloaded, packed in a hard-sided case, locked, and packed separately from ammunition.

Okay, that was the educational portion of their article, at the end. After reading all the reports of people that “attempted” to bring their firearm onto an airplane. There’s a little shaming in there, possibly rightfully so to an extent. I favor education over shaming for teachable moments. The statistic that I’d love to see, and really, there’s no way to prove this, would be how many of these people that “attempted” to make it through the TSA security line really just forgot to take their gun out of their bag? Versus, how many of these incidents can be proven to be knowingly and willfully with mal intent? That’s impossible to know, even after full investigations. My wager would be that a gross number of these situations are simple dumb mistakes.

Be that as it may, this week’s Firearm Detections Update has some troubling soundbites. Were these intentional or just more par for course subconscious passive aggressive insinuations?

“It’s been well publicized that we are seeing a spike in unruly passengers on board flights, and gun owners need to know that we mean business when we detect a gun at a checkpoint,” said Robin “Chuck” Burke, TSA’s Federal Security Director for Richmond International. “The last thing that passengers in commercial aviation need is to have someone with a loaded gun on a flight. We take it extremely seriously when our officers stop a traveler with a gun or any other weapon such as knives, tasers etc., at a checkpoint. Guns are just not to be carried onto flights,” he added.

“It’s very concerning that we’re seeing passengers fighting with flight attendants and fellow travelers. Throw a weapon of any type into the picture and there’s no telling what the outcome could be,” Burke said “There will be a very stiff federal financial penalty handed down on top of any criminal charges that the police impose when weapons are detected.”

Is that bias? Chuck went from talking about “a spike in unruly passengers” and then sends the message “gun owners need to know that we mean business”. What the heck Chuck? Why are you automatically lumping gun owners into the same category or sentence as the “unruly passengers”? Is that because the unruly and firearm owners are both part of the unwashed masses to you? Give me a break. I think it’s safe to say that we’d agree with you that we don’t want armed persons on an airplane, but your level of melodrama is like through the roof. Doubling down with capping off your statement “It’s very concerning that we’re seeing passengers fighting with flight attendants and fellow travelers. Throw a weapon of any type into the picture and there’s no telling what the outcome could be,…” Very good Chuck, very good.

The TSA’s Federal Security Director for Richmond International just laid out, in my opinion, some serious bias. There was no conversation about “statistics”, just jumping the gun that the violence committed by COVID fatigued passengers must be paired with gun owners in the same statement. Gun owners who usually unknowingly make a big mistake. Anyone that’s been into any trouble with the TSA reading this should zero in on those statements. Were you wearing an NRA or SAF t-shirt going through the Richmond International airport and were hassled by a TSA agent for no reason? Well, Chuck just gave you a present by exposing his own bias. How much of that bias trickles down?

This is not the first time I’ve had to wag my finger in shame at the TSA. In June I reported on a story about a man who accidently left a box of .22 caliber cartridges in his carryon and was shamed by a TSA official through their Twitter account.

There are a multitude of solutions that I can come up with on how to help mitigate these situations. Up until now, I would have thought they’d be viable. Knowing there is such a bias in TSA against law abiding gun owners that make probably the biggest error in their lives changes my view on if “they” want a solution. For example, and I eluded to this in June, these situations should be used to educate people. Instead of shaming, teach. How about setting up a pre-security check point where an agent addresses passengers, or there are much larger signs to remind passengers to make sure they don’t have any contraband? The signs are pretty small and inconspicuous. Small initiatives can be done. How about an online video campaign with a friendly TSA agent going through the process of clearing a carryon, advocating to not use a carryon for anything other than travel. Sure, that sounds trite, but if it saves only one person from getting into trouble…There are solutions. But not in a world where the TSA speaks the way we’ve witnessed above.

My friendly advice, and this is something I noted in June’s piece:

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 carryon 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 carryon 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 carryon. 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”…

Unlike the TSA, you the responsible law abiding gun owner or person that appreciates freedom, doesn’t need to have a finger wagged in their face. We know what we have to do, we just need to make sure we do it. Everyone, please be extra dutiful about packing when you’re going to be traveling. I don’t want to see you in a TSA tweet or report!

Stay safe out there and think before you do!