Flying With Firearms: An Update
Last week, I flew back to Utah from San Jose California to get ready for the start of another semester. In December when I went home, I made the decision to bring two of my handguns so I could have a home defense tool and so I could continue to create content for my followers. The process of declaring my firearms in the Salt Lake City airport was smooth and my checked bag containing my gun case made it to California without any issues. Returning to Salt Lake was a slightly different story.
I had a 6:50 am flight out of San Jose and made the (incorrect) assumption that there would only be a few other people willing to be on such early flights. I arrived at the airport around 5:30 (a little later than I had planned) and was surprised to find the bag check area to be a complete disaster. I waited in the long and unorganized lines to check my 2 suitcases, pay for my dog’s ticket, and check my firearm.
When it was finally my turn to talk to the ticket agent, I explained all of the things I had to do and she started the process by giving me the firearm declaration form to fill out. After I finished filling out the form, the agent told me that I needed to open my locked firearm case and place the card inside. I have checked my firearms many times and have never been asked to do that. I was confused, and it was 5:30 in the morning so I started unlocking my case without thinking too much about it. After removing my locks, I finally realized that what she was asking me to do was incorrect and could potentially cause issues- how would TSA know that I declared my firearm if they cannot clearly see my form? What kind of trouble could I get into if TSA assumed that I did not follow the procedures? I told her that the card needs to be placed outside the locked container because I am the only one who should be able to unlock my case and that TSA is not supposed to be able to open it unless I am present to unlock it for them. She responded by saying “they can do whatever they want.” I was a little bit shocked that she would say something like that, especially when TSA has clear guidelines for transporting firearms. I repeated my argument, adding a reference to TSA’s website until she brought another ticket agent over who tried telling me the same thing. She said that TSA would call me to open the case for them. I asked her how they could call me if the form containing my cell phone number is locked in a case that they cannot unlock and she once again used the “they can do whatever they want” argument on me. After some more back and forth, the two ticket agents finally allowed me to correctly place my firearm declaration card on the outside of my container and my firearm case arrived in Utah without a problem.
This was the first time I had any issues declaring a firearm with Southwest Airlines. This experience highlights the importance of being able to question authority and the importance of being informed. If I had not read TSA’s website and understood the rules for flying with firearms, I could have gotten myself in trouble, incurring a fine of $1,370. The same could have happened if I wasn’t willing to speak up and question the people who were supposed to know what they were doing.
I now realize that I did not include one of the most important steps in my initial post about flying with firearms. Make sure you read and understand the rules of flying with firearms that are available on the TSA website. You are the only person responsible for making sure you follow the correct procedures when checking a firearm and it is essential that you do so.