TSA using commonsense in Little Rhody?

AP Photo/Michael Dwyer

The Transportation Security Administration is not known for being a huggable and fluffy origination.  The pages of Bearing Arms are loaded with stories dealing with the agency and how they handle, or in my opinion, oftentimes mishandle situations. A recent report discussed a situation where a woman allegedly had an unloaded handgun and two magazines in her carry-on bag and was caught up by security.

WARWICK, R.I. – Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officers stopped a female passenger from carrying a firearm onto an airplane at T.F. Green Airport (PVD) on Wednesday, April 6. This was the first firearm detection this year at PVD security checkpoints.

On Wednesday afternoon a TSA officer detected the firearm along with two magazines in the woman’s carry-on bag. Rhode Island Airport Police responded, and discovered an unloaded .380 caliber firearm along with two magazines containing a total of 18 rounds. The Connecticut woman did have a firearms permit but did not check and declare the firearm. She eventually cleared through security and allowed to continue

“Our TSA officers continue to do an outstanding job preventing firearms from entering the secure area of the airport,” said Daniel Burche, TSA’s Federal Security Director for Rhode Island. “Passengers who are traveling with firearms need to ensure they are properly packed in their checked baggage. When an individual shows up at a checkpoint with a firearm it can slow or shut down security screening until the police resolve the incident.”

The most meaningful line in his report is “She eventually cleared through security and was allowed to continue”. The full details of what happened, the circumstances, all of the intricate details, I really want to know. Once in a while, we’ll read about TSA using their noggin and being able to discern between criminal behavior and honest mistakes. More often than not, we find TSA doing some real virtual signaling and taking themselves a bit too seriously. What this report and reports like it tell me is that the TSA can exercise discretion.

In 2021, TSA detected two firearms at T.F. Green security checkpoints, and four in 2020.

TSA reserves the right to issue a civil penalty to travelers who have guns and gun parts with them at a checkpoint. A typical first offense for carrying a loaded gun into a checkpoint is $4,100 and can go as high as $13,669 depending on any mitigating circumstances. This applies to travelers with or without concealed gun carry permits because even though an individual may have a concealed carry permit, it does not allow for a firearm to be carried onto an airplane. The complete list of civil penalties is posted online. If a traveler with a gun is a member of TSA PreCheck®, that individual will lose their TSA PreCheck privileges.

Passengers are permitted to travel with firearms in checked baggage if they are unloaded, packed separately from ammunition in a locked hardback case and declared at the airline check-in counter.

TSA has details on how to properly travel with a firearm posted on its website. Travelers should also contact their airline as they may have additional requirements for traveling with firearms and ammunition.

Given the TSA’s policy and stance, we can only guess at what happened after the woman was caught up with her handgun. The woman was allowed to pass through security, did she check her firearm in her checked baggage after the interaction? Did she take it back out to her car? Did they confiscate it? It sounds to me like she was not arrested nor was it indicated that she was fined. The only time I know of where someone got fouled up in this kind of situation with a handgun, it did not go smoothly. While it ended well for him, it did so at a price. Another friend must have had a guardian angel on his shoulder. Being mindful of what bag you use when you travel is one thing to help mitigate issues.

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!

I’m grateful for the work that the TSA does do though. They have a job to do that’s not all that fun if I had to imagine. My personal interaction with TSA exposes the same type of dynamic one would have when dealing with people in general. Some of the agents are awesome and some of them could use some sensitivity training, to put it lightly. I’m glad it seems that this situation worked out for the woman. Exercising discretion and weighing what intent might be a motivator to mishaps is something that should be the rule, rather than the exception. More often than not, people just simply forget they have their firearms with them because it’s a part of their everyday life. Not going to make excuses here on that, but this seems to be the #1 reason someone ends up getting tripped up. Legislating in more penalties I don’t think is the answer, but rather education and perhaps pre prescreening.