June 19th, 2018

Handguns in Carry-Ons — Don’t Let An Oversight Land You in Jail

TSA Airport security baggage pistol revolver handguns confiscation seize violation arrest airline

Many of our readers carry handguns for personal protection, and many of those folks travel regularly through airports. It IS legal to take a handgun on an airline flight in checked baggage (if you follow the rules). But for goodness sake — declare the weapon as required by law and comply with all TSA and Federal regulations. Do NOT just toss your pistol in your carry-on and expect to board the plane. About 4,000 pistols were discovered in carry-on luggage in 2017. That can result in seizure and confiscation of the weapon, and just might land you in jail!

Gun writer Dean Weingarten recently wrote an article about handgun seizures at airports. Remarkably, in a single week (5/18/18 to 6/3/18), 97 handguns were found in carry-on bags at U.S. airports.

Handguns in Carry-On Baggage

Report by Dean Weingarten, ©2018 by Dean Weingarten, GunWatch Blog
During the week of 28 May to June 3rd, 2018, the TSA discovered 97 pistols in carry-ons at airports where security is controlled by the TSA. The collage of pistols shown above is a sample of those found.

TSA gives a list of the pistols found. The list shows the make, model and caliber of most of the pistols. There were 93 pistols where the caliber was identified.

9mm pistols were still the most common, with 36 represented. .380 pistols, known in Europe as 9X17, 9mm Kurtz, or 9mm Corto, were the next represented, with 24 present. That is 70 pistols, or 75% of the pistols found. There were a smattering of other calibers. There were eight .40 caliber pistols, seven .22 LR rimfire, six .45 caliber, five .32 caliber, four .38 caliber, one .410, and one .22 magnum.

Most of the pistols were semi-autos, there were a few revolvers, and three derringers.

How does this happen? It is the principle of rare occurrences. While an event may be extremely rare for each individual, if enough individuals are involved, the occurrence of rare events becomes a statistical certainty. About 4,000 pistols were discovered in carry-on luggage in 2017. There were about 770 million travelers passing through TSA checkpoints in that year. That is one pistol found for about 194,000 passengers. Each passenger presumably went through TSA checkpoints at least twice, once going, once returning. Some passengers go through multiple checkpoints, depending on the route taken.

Let us use the 194,000 figure for simplicity. A person would have to go on a trip every day for 531 years, and only miss a pistol in their luggage once to match that percentage.

I believe it happens in ways most people do not consider, because they are RARE. One way is to be distracted at a critical moment. Perhaps a business owner has made the decision to move a pistol from his briefcase to his locked desk. A child runs into the room and screams the family dog is in a fight in the front yard!

The business owner responds, but his mind has already registered the placement of the pistol in the desk. The minor emergency is taken care of, but he has to rush to make his flight. The pistol remains in the briefcase and is discovered by the TSA.

Sound weird? It only has to happen once in 531 years of taking a trip every day.

The quality of the pistols found suggest most were taken from people who can legally carry them in most places. There are over 17 million people with carry permits in the United States. There are 13 states where no carry permit is required.

No one is perfect. Everyone makes mistakes. It is part of the human condition. I learned long ago to know that I have limitations and am not perfect. Some people come close, but no one is.

Another rare scenario is for a third party to put the pistol in the carry-on without the carrier knowing about it. In at least one case, this was done to a school student, maliciously. In that case, it was put in a teens’ backpack, and an anonymous tip made to a school. It probably happens most often without malicious intent.

Some occur because the traveler borrowed a piece of carry-on luggage, and missed a small pistol tucked into a dark recess of the luggage, where another family member kept it. I suspect that most pistols are discovered precisely because the carriers are not attempting to smuggle them.

Most of these errors are recognized as honest mistakes by the TSA. The TSA is not the end of the legal problems for a person who finds themselves in this situation. The biggest players are the states. How the situation is handled depends on where the situation occurs.

When traveling, check your carry-on twice. If you discover you have made a mistake, correct it.

©2018 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice is included.

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