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Old November 20, 2019, 09:16 AM   #1
Hal
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TSA - illegal search? (and what about the firearms if any?)

I just got back home from Phoenix.
I did nottake a firearm.
However...

I did have a lap top in my checked duffle bag. I was told by the ticket agent I had to remove the battery. Inconvieninet but - I did unlock the padlock and sloly unpack all my dirty laundry & my laptop, remove the battery, then carefully repack everything - right at the ticket counter. Luckily for everyone, I was two hours early and there wasn't a line....anyhow...

I had a padlock on my duffle bag.

When I returned home, the padlock was gone & in it's place was a zip tie.

I cut the zip tie off and inside was a card from the TSA & the destroyed padlock. The card said my luggage ahd been selected for a random search by the TSA - and they were not responsible for any damage resulting from the search.

I'm not going debate the legality of the search - that's useless - I'm 100% sure it's illegal - but - that's just me. I'm also sure that destruction of private property is also illegal - but - that's just me.

HOWEVER - I got to thinking. What if I had packed a gun, complied with all the requirements, locked and secured the gun in the luggage,,,then had the locks destroyed by the TSA - leaving the gun 100% available for theft by the airline workers? - - who have a pretty dismal track record for that sort of thing..

Who would that be on?

OR - is this a (yet another) deliberate attempt by the .gov to discourage/infringe on our 2nd amendment rights?

I had considered packing a gun - but - decided against it. Glad I did.
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Old November 20, 2019, 10:07 AM   #2
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in years past, I travelled by air several times per month.

But I havent been on an airplane now for over 10 years.
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Old November 20, 2019, 11:32 AM   #3
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This may clarify things:

https://www.tsa.gov/blog/2014/02/18/...cognized-locks
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Old November 20, 2019, 11:43 AM   #4
raimius
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Per US code 1540.111
Quote:
(c) In checked baggage. A passenger may not transport or offer for transport in checked baggage or in baggage carried in an inaccessible cargo hold under §1562.23 of this chapter:

(1) Any loaded firearm(s).

(2) Any unloaded firearm(s) unless—

(i) The passenger declares to the aircraft operator, either orally or in writing, before checking the baggage, that the passenger has a firearm in his or her bag and that it is unloaded;

(ii) The firearm is unloaded;

(iii) The firearm is carried in a hard-sided container; and

(iv) The container in which it is carried is locked, and only the passenger retains the key or combination.
There is some confusion over whether TSA locks comply with that law. (TSA says yes, but the law says ONLY the passenger can have the key, whereas TSA locks have a master key possessed by the TSA)
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Old November 20, 2019, 12:36 PM   #5
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When lived in NJ, I traveled out of Newark with handguns years ago (yes, that Newark). I carefully researched the laws federal and state, the TSA and airline regs. I called several days ahead to the airline and ticket counter to advise of my intent to lawfully travel with firearms, and wanted to be sure exactly what the process required inside the terminal. To my surprise they were not freaked out on the phone as you might expect. And when I got there the airline ticket counter person actually remembered my call and was pleasant to deal with.

I locked my handguns in approved hard-sided handgun case using a standard padlock to which I had the only key. This case was cabled to the inside frame of my checked baggage to reduce theft risk. The checked baggage was locked with a TSA approved lock they can open with their master key.

I declared traveling with firearms at the ticket counter using a business card I made printed specifically for that purpose so no open and scary discussion of "guns omg!" would take place. I asked for the proper forms, filled them out, and a TSA agent came and took my baggage for screening. I went with them and waited outside their screening room until they gave me the thumbs up, then went to the gate. I picked up my baggage at the other end with no trouble. I did this a number of times over several years. The very first time through this the counter person handed me a red form for taking a firearm on board in the passenger compartment - obviously for law enforcement use only. "Miss, I think this is the wrong form, please check again" (whew!).

I am of the firm opinion that baggage must not be locked with a standard lock, and that firearms cases must not be locked with a TSA type lock. Guns=hard-case+standard lock, baggage=tsa-approved-lock.

In your case you used a standard padlock on your ordinary (non-firearm) checked baggage (duffle bag). The regs do not allow this and they will cut it as you know.
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Old November 20, 2019, 12:39 PM   #6
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Okay...I'm too lazy today to look this up but I seem to remember you can NOT lock up anything in your checked baggage EXCEPT a firearm which MUST be locked up.

There was some photographer that didn't like transporting his expensive camera gear unlocked so he got a starting pistol, put it in the hard case with his camera equipment and then got to put his padlock on it...might be an urban legend.

I think because your locked item was NOT a firearm they could bust the lock. If it had been a declared firearm they would not bust the lock. But then maybe they can do that too if they think there might be some danger.
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Old November 20, 2019, 12:48 PM   #7
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Just another short note and this too might be an urban legend but some law enforcement person was traveling with a firearm and the appropriate paper work so they got to have their pistol on the plane but the TSA agent confiscated their pocket knife because there was no paperwork for that.

Another instance I believe happened with the old Northwest Airlines was the TSA wouldn't let him fly with his nail clipper because, you know, he might take over the plane. This has some documentation here:
https://www.irishexaminer.com/breaki...ers-24852.html
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Old November 20, 2019, 02:43 PM   #8
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It happened to me a lot, use tsa locks and they won’t cut them off
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Old November 20, 2019, 03:16 PM   #9
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Yup, use a TSA lock and yup - random searches legit. You can thank DHS, Patriot Act, & 9/11.
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Old November 20, 2019, 03:43 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by raimius
There is some confusion over whether TSA locks comply with that law. (TSA says yes, but the law says ONLY the passenger can have the key, whereas TSA locks have a master key possessed by the TSA)
There is no confusion. The outer suitcase, in which a locked handgun case can be checked, can (and arguably should) be locked with a TSA lock. The actual gun case must be locked such that only the owner can unlock it -- that means NO TSA locks on gun cases.

In years past, the TSA's own web site stated that people traveling with guns should turn over the key or combination to a TSA agent upon request. BUT ... that directly violates the applicable federal law. The applicable law (regulation) is 49 C.F.R. § 1540.111 Carriage of weapons, explosives, and incendiaries by individuals. It says:

Quote:
(c) In checked baggage. A passenger may not transport or offer for transport in checked baggage or in baggage carried in an inaccessible cargo hold under §1562.23 of this chapter:

(1) Any loaded firearm(s).

(2) Any unloaded firearm(s) unless—

(i) The passenger declares to the aircraft operator, either orally or in writing, before checking the baggage, that the passenger has a firearm in his or her bag and that it is unloaded;

(ii) The firearm is unloaded;

(iii) The firearm is carried in a hard-sided container; and

(iv) The container in which it is carried is locked, and only the passenger retains the key or combination.
Source: https://law.justia.com/cfr/title49/4....8.2.10.6.html

Clearly, if you use a TSA lock that any TSA agent can open using a standard master key, then the requirement that "only the passenger retains the key or combination" has not been met.
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Old November 20, 2019, 07:44 PM   #11
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I would follow the law, as written, and use a lock only I had the key/combo for. Where the confusion arises is that TSA's website says "TSA recognized" locks are acceptable. As people who can read the law, it's clearly wrong...but TSA is superbly incompetent.

https://www.tsa.gov/travel/transport...and-ammunition
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Old November 20, 2019, 08:29 PM   #12
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The info on the TSA site has changed since I last looked at it but, as raimius notes, it is still wrong. But now it's wrong twice in a single paragraph.

Quote:
Firearms must be unloaded and locked in a hard-sided container and transported as checked baggage only. As defined by 49 CFR 1540.5 a loaded firearm has a live round of ammunition, or any component thereof, in the chamber or cylinder or in a magazine inserted in the firearm. Only the passenger should retain the key or combination to the lock unless TSA personnel request the key to open the firearm container to ensure compliance with TSA regulations. You may use any brand or type of lock to secure your firearm case, including TSA-recognized locks.
I quoted the law in a preceding post, and provided a link to it on-line. The law clearly states that the passenger shall retain the key or combination; the law does NOT say "unless TSA personnel request the key." TSA personnel have their master keys -- if the lock is a TSA-recognized lock, they don't need the passenger's key or combination. And therein lies the problem. The law clearly intends that ONLY the passenger be able to open the locked gun case. If the case is secured with a TSA lock, any TSA agent (and most baggage handlers, but we're not supposed to know about that) can open the case.
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Old November 20, 2019, 09:08 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hal View Post
I'm not going debate the legality of the search - that's useless - I'm 100% sure it's illegal - but - that's just me. I'm also sure that destruction of private property is also illegal - but - that's just me.

No need to debate anything... but if it was illegal, I’d think it would have been squared away/stopped by now. But that’s just me.

It is just like people that want to argue probable cause/warrants with my job (CBP). US courts have decided that our border search authority does not infringe the Fourth Amendment. Yet, everyone becomes a law scholar when we find contraband in their vehicle.

TSA needed to get in your bag. You didn’t use a TSA lock, so they cut the lock to gain access. They did secure it afterwards and left you a note/your property. If you had a TSA lock, they would have unlocked and replace said lock. Firearms need to be declared, and secured in a case that only the owner (you) has access to. If you did bring a gun, nobody should have access to it... considering you followed the rules.

I do say that TSA is a joke, as they hire a lot of different people... and some are questionable. Dealing with them at FLETC, the people that make you stand in lines cannot figure out how to navigate a line in the cafeteria. However, there are plenty of people in the agency that are good people and are professional with their job. But if you feel your rights are being violated... you have an option; don’t fly.
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Old November 21, 2019, 10:37 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rickyrick View Post
It happened to me a lot, use tsa locks and they won’t cut them off
Yup, I agree..BUT how did you remove the battery from a laptop? Didn't know that was easy/possible.
Quote:
I did have a lap top in my checked duffle bag. I was told by the ticket agent I had to remove the battery.
Quote:
The TSA isn't the only government entity that has rules about laptops – or, at least, their batteries. The Federal Aviation Administration requires that any spare lithium ion and lithium metal batteries go in your carry-on luggage, not into checked bags.
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Old November 21, 2019, 03:36 PM   #15
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Quote:
I'm not going debate the legality of the search - that's useless - I'm 100% sure it's illegal - but - that's just me. I'm also sure that destruction of private property is also illegal - but - that's just me.
Pretty sure that's just you.

Consider this, air travel is voluntary. No matter what "otherwise unConstitutional" seeming things they require, your rights are not being violated, because you are CHOOSING fly, and in order to do so, agree to voluntarily comply with any and all regulations and requirements.

Not flying might be inconvenient, it might be more expensive, it might be a royal pain in the butt, but the law doesn't care about that.

I can't point to where, but I'm sure its in the fine print somewhere, perhaps in the ticket contract, perhaps somewhere else, but essentially, by going to the airport and buying a ticket on a commercial flight you are agreeing to all their rules and regulations. Since you voluntarily agree, your rights are not being violated, you have, essentially waived them.

Here's an example of a similar thing (in principle), I heard about a guy who rented a car, and after turning it back in was charged some hefty fees by the rental agency because he had been speeding in the rented car.

The cops never caught him, he got no traffic ticket, but he got charged for speeding by the rental agency, because they tracked the GPS on the car, and times at various locations, and more than once it was not possible to get from location A to B in the time he did, at the legal speed limit.

He couldn't dispute the charges, because, in the fine print of the rental contract, which he voluntarily signed, it told him they would do that.

Same idea here, if you choose to fly, you agree to everything that today goes along with that. Agreeing means your rights are not violated. You may not realize everything involved with what you are agreeing to, but the law doesn't care about that, either.

FYI, I've heard, that if you charter a plane you don't go through the TSA process at all. I know that at the local airport, charter plane passengers don't even go to the regular passenger terminal. So it appears that if you spend enough money, you can avoid the hassles endured by the rest of us.
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Old November 21, 2019, 04:02 PM   #16
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So, bottom line. The search was legal. Destruction of your lock was legal. There is no conspiracy by the government to discourage your 2nd amendment rights, the 2nd amendment not even being a relevant issue to this situation because no guns were involved.
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Old November 21, 2019, 08:28 PM   #17
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Just to make sure I'm following this correctly, the issue was that there was a non-TSA approved lock and no declared weapon. Is that it? If there had been a firearm it would have been a serious issue, but because there was a non-TSA lock AND no declared checked firearm, they would be pretty obligated to remove the lock and verify no firearm. Is that correct?
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Old November 21, 2019, 09:31 PM   #18
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Why would the TSA be obligated to open a duffle bag to verify no checked firearm? As far as I know, all luggage is x-rayed, and a firearm would show up on an x-ray. They opened the OP's duffle bag for some other reason.
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Old November 22, 2019, 01:15 AM   #19
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Quote:
I cut the zip tie off and inside was a card from the TSA & the destroyed padlock. The card said my luggage ahd been selected for a random search by the TSA - and they were not responsible for any damage resulting from the search.
Note from TSA stating it was a random search. Nothing to do with firearms checked or not.

Likely if they hadn't had to cut the lock there wouldn't even have been a note.
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Old November 22, 2019, 01:50 AM   #20
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Quote:
Just to make sure I'm following this correctly, the issue was that there was a non-TSA approved lock and no declared weapon. Is that it? If there had been a firearm it would have been a serious issue, but because there was a non-TSA lock AND no declared checked firearm, they would be pretty obligated to remove the lock and verify no firearm. Is that correct?
AND... the OP also said this was a duffel bag... soft side... not legal for carrying a gun in anyways unless you put the gun in a hard-side case (think small Pelican pistol case) inside the duffel and THEN lock that with a non-TSA lock.
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Old November 22, 2019, 06:17 AM   #21
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Here's why the battery was such a big deal: https://thepointsguy.com/news/overhe...ng-down-plane/

I suspect a second screener saw the laptop and searched the bag to check for the battery. I'm not crazy about the TSA, but it seems like they were doing their jobs this time.

I'd never check a laptop. Beyond the fire danger I've had too many lost bags to risk losing all that data.
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Old November 22, 2019, 07:57 AM   #22
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Quote:
Why would the TSA be obligated to open a duffle bag to verify no checked firearm? As far as I know, all luggage is x-rayed, and a firearm would show up on an x-ray. They opened the OP's duffle bag for some other reason.
Luggage is scanned which is probably why the bag was opened. The processing software is hardly 100% accurate. The only way to be sure is to look inside.


Quote:
HOWEVER - I got to thinking. What if I had packed a gun, complied with all the requirements, locked and secured the gun in the luggage,,,then had the locks destroyed by the TSA - leaving the gun 100% available for theft by the airline workers? - - who have a pretty dismal track record for that sort of thing..
This is why some airports scan luggage in front of the passenger when the firearm is declared and then take control of the bag. It no longer needs to opened to be checked because it was already checked (and opened if need be).


Quote:
AND... the OP also said this was a duffel bag... soft side... not legal for carrying a gun in anyways unless you put the gun in a hard-side case (think small Pelican pistol case) inside the duffel and THEN lock that with a non-TSA lock.
TSA approved cases come in all kinds of sizes. You can buy a small one for $15 at Walmart in the sporting goods section. The checked bag containing the gun does not have to be locked.
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Old November 22, 2019, 09:27 PM   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 44 AMP
Likely if they hadn't had to cut the lock there wouldn't even have been a note.
I've gotten that note several times, and my luggage wasn't even locked at all. I think they have to put it in there if they search it.
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Old November 22, 2019, 09:52 PM   #24
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I just got back from a trip to Mexico. 2 of my 3 checked bags got searched coming home. No big deal.
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Old November 22, 2019, 10:10 PM   #25
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You must declare firearms in checked baggage when you check them.

Bring the hard case that has at least two lock hasps with the unloaded firearms inside to the airline check-in counter. Ammunition must be in factory cartons or cases designed to hold individual ammunition cartridges in their own compartment (no loose rounds, and no rounds in magazines or clips). Check your airline for their policy on ammunition quantity limits (it varies). Bring four non-TSA locks. They must be non-TSA locks because you must sign a affadavit that you alone have the key or combination and that no one else does and you cannot truthfully sign such knowing anyone else has TSA keys. Tell the airline agent you have firearms to declare (it's preferred you not use the word "gun") and that you have the locks. They'll have you sign the form declaring the firearms unloaded state and regarding the locks. They will instruct you from there.

At some airports, the airline agent will escort you to TSA with your case. Remind the TSA person you have the locks or if the airline had you put them on, remind TSA that you can remove them if necessary. This saves them from cutting them off. In some cases, they will just cut them off, and you will need the other two locks you brought with you. Yes, it can be that inane. It is the federal Government. If you don't want to be stopped from flying, bring four locks. Two locks might not be strictly required, but you do not want to get in an argument with someone who is convinced they remember something about locks on each end of a long gun cases or whether your snubnosed revolver is actually a long gun. Two locks per case avoids the argument. You would not believe how stupid people can be. I've heard them argue about whether guns had to be in individual hard cases or one hard case was enough for multiple guns. If you can avoid any arguments, its worth it because if someone decides to dig-in, your clock is running and you will be late for your flight while they will just go off shift and it's another day.

At some airports, the airline will have you lock the case with your affadavit inside and they deliver it to TSA. In this case, TSA x-rays the case and they'll do whatever they have to do or contact you if needed. It's more likely to happen this way at very small airports. Most of the time, expect to accompany your case to the airline and TSA.

If you've checked a bag with a firearm, expect to have to pick it up at the Baggage Service Office, and not off the carousel.

Also, you consent to the search when you check bags. It is not an illegal violation of your 4th amendment rights if you waive those rights and you do indeed do so when you check bags or consent to the search at the TSA checkpoint.


I don't think TSA should focus on guns, but on fire and explosive risks which do include lithium batteries besides bombs. Handguns should be allowed carry-on because a handgun cannot take down the entire plane. Some pilots and Sky Marshals are armed, but why not arm random passengers at their will? Terrorists and other would-be-hijackers with careful planning such as those that perpetrated 9/11 can easily identify pilots and sky marshals that carry and take them out by surprise. They cannot anticipate which passengers are armed and willing to resist and only firearms give otherwise weaker people the ability to overcome a stronger hijacker. The bottom line is an airline passenger compartment should not be a gun-free zone.

Last edited by labnoti; November 22, 2019 at 10:18 PM.
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