January 20, 2005
Gotta love airport security

For some comic relief in the midst of all the serious news of the day, here's my interesting experience with Seattle's airport security . . .

It certainly wasn't my intention to prove that federal airport security is a joke. (What for? We already know it.) But there I was, staring at the seat in front of me as the plane swooped down for landing in Chicago, when I suddenly realized I had a gun in my checked luggage.

(Gasp! Will our hero survive?? Find out in the extended entry!)

The fact that I carry a small handgun for personal protection is generally not worth mentioning. The fact that I had forgotten to take it out of my purse that morning and it was now on a plane with me in post-9/11 America was ... alarming ... and of course very interesting. My layover to D.C. (or was it Guantanamo?) would not be boring.

I was relieved to discover there was no entourage waiting for me when I stepped off the plane. I would have to turn myself in. I found my gate and calmly approached the airline desk.

"Excuse me, I have a rather odd request. You see, I have a gun in my luggage that I completely forgot about and I'm wondering what I should do."

There were two women behind the counter. They stared at me. "You wha ... You have a what?"

"I have a gun in my purse inside my checked luggage. I carry it for personal protection and I forgot to take it out this morning. What should I do?"

The word "purse" apparently made them think it was in the bag slung over my shoulder. When I realized they were both about to stuff themselves under the counter, I clarified: "My purse is in my checked luggage, not carry-on." A few more moments of pointed questioning had one of the women commending me for being willing to defend myself and advising me to take a shuttle to Wal-Mart to purchase a lock-box, while the other was informing her that I was not to leave the premises. By that time, two airport managers had arrived at "the scene."

I was then escorted down to the baggage claim area by a rather nervous manager, where we were met and surrounded by six or eight police officers from the Chicago PD.

"Is this the woman?" one of them asked.

"Yes, it's her," said the manager.

They all looked at me suspiciously.

"What are you doing with a gun on the plane?" the same officer asked.

"Well, as I explained to the airline, I carry a weapon for personal protection -- here is my permit -- and I completely forgot to take it out of my purse this morning as I usually do before traveling. I realized this as we were getting ready to land and when I got off the plane I informed the airline."

The cops looked at each other, and at me. An older cop seemed sympathetic, and he gave the officer who questioned me "a look." The Inquisitor looked back at him and said: "I know what you're thinking, and I completely understand. But we can't do that. This is going to be an investigation. That's all there is to it."

"Are you a police officer?" they asked.

"No, I work for a think tank."

"Why do you want to carry a firearm?" they asked.

"For personal protection."

"Do you know how to use one?" they asked.

"Well, yes, I can make it work."

"Have you been attacked before?" they asked.

"No, but if I ever am I want to survive."

About this time airline personnel were seen coming with my bags. The officers stared at the bags. There was a Gun in one of them. "It's in the small one," I said. "It's loaded."

Two officers carefully took the handles of my luggage while the sympathetic older officer was dismissed. By this time it seemed The Inquisitor was also feeling kindly toward me and he leaned down and said in a very serious, fatherly sort of way: "Look. This is your story, ok? You carry a weapon for personal protection. You have a permit. You completely forgot to take it out of your purse this morning as you usually do before traveling. You realized this as you were getting ready to land and when you got off the plane you informed the airline. That's what you need to say, ok? Don't deviate from that."

"Uh, yes. That is my story," I replied.

Since they hadn't handcuffed me as we made our way to the airport police station, I figured the other regular joes in the airport would think I was important. After all, I had a sizeable police escort and two of the officers were carrying my luggage for me.

On the way, my Inquisitor said: "The next two hours of your life will not be boring."

"Oh good," I replied, politely.

Once inside the police station I was taken to a small, windowless room with one chair and a steel bench. The faces of the officers I passed asked: "Is that the Gun Woman?"

Three or four officers came into the small room with the luggage so they could find and unload It. When they got to my purse I told them where It was. Among the things they pulled out in the process was my Bible, which caused one officer to react: "Is that a Bible?? A Bible AND a gun?? That's a very strange combination!"

Before I could say anything my Inquisitor defended me with a muttered: "Oh I don't know. I think it makes sense."

When they finally had It out and unloaded several officers came in to have a look. "Ooh, a Beretta!" was the general swell of consensus. "This is a nice little piece. How much did it cost ya?" asked the officer who was shocked at any connection between Christians and self-defense weapons. Another one offered to buy it for $25.

"Thanks, but I'd rather keep it," I replied.

"You know you're probably going to leave here without it, don't you?" said the Shocked Officer with a rather sneering laugh.

"I hope not," I replied.

By that time most of the officers were treating me with an unstated "let's not make this lady cry" attitude. (Chivalry is not dead.) My Inquisitor came in and asked the others to leave for just a second while he shut the door. "Look," he said. "The FBI is here now. I bet within two minutes of getting our call they'd already run a background check on you in DC. They know what time you got on the plane this morning, where you're going ... everything. Now here's your story, ok? You ... oh, they're here now."

A big, mustached, rather jolly man entered the room. "Is this her?" he asked. We established that it was and went through the whole story again. About that time a national Transportation Security Administration official arrived, very concerned that a gun had somehow made it through the lines in Seattle.

"I expect this will get someone fired back there," he said.

"A federal employee? That'll be a first," I thought.

The FBI agent assured me everything would be ok. "Don't make her cry, don't make her cry," he seemed to be thinking.

After that my Inquisitor and another officer came in and told me I could get a lock-box and declare the Gun and as long as I kept it in my checked luggage it should be fine to take it through the airports.

The Shocked Officer seemed disappointed when he heard. "So they're letting you keep it," he observed.

By this time I was quite pleased with the gracious attitude of almost everyone there. One of the officers even took his personal car and drove all the way outside the city limits of Chicago to find a lock-box for me. (It's illegal to have any firearms inside the city of Chicago and none of the stores carry anything related.)

When it was all taken care of, the airport manager and one officer escorted me down to make sure my bags cleared through the luggage screener. On the way, we saw the Sympathetic Officer again, who happily noted that everything had gone smoothly and wished me a good flight.

I was left alone for a little while to wait for boarding, but as passengers began to trickle into the plane I heard my name (almost) over the intercom: "Will Martha Richards please report to the airline desk? Martha Richards, please report."

"Bummer," I thought. "It's Guantanamo after all."

As I walked toward the counter a man I passed gave me a very searching glance. "SHE must be Martha Richards," he seemed to say.

I was met at the counter by another TSA official. "Are you Miss Richards?" she asked. "Please follow me."

We didn't go far and she just wanted to ask me again why I had a Gun on the plane and if I was sure I'd given my bags to federal airport security personnel in Seattle and not the airline.

The man with the Searching Glance came up right about then and flashed his badge. He was the Sky Marshall for that flight. I think he was making sure I knew that he knew that I was the woman with the Gun. He was very polite, but didn't quite seem to understand why someone like me would ever want to carry a weapon. I wanted to ask him how likely it was that he would be standing around if someone decided to mug me.

I caught my flight, made it to D.C., and had a great conference -- and there were no detours to Guantanamo on the way home.

To make a long story just a little longer . . .

The TSA proved more adept after the fact and I was fined $200 for the incident. (The fine was actually $400, but I accepted a Blue Light Special that cut it in half if I agreed not to challenge it.)

Incidentally, in addition to the letter and citation from the federal government, I received photocopies of the relevant pages of Transportation Security Regulations included in the Homeland Security Act.

Pages 51,485 through 51,497, to be exact, all crammed full of size 8 or 9 font.

Ah, government.

Posted by Marsha Michaelis at January 20, 2005 08:59 AM | Email This
Comments
1. Marsha, you can have a gun in your checked baggage. A lot of people have guns in their checked baggage. Having a gun in your checked baggage is not the same thing as your carry-on baggage. You can't get to it. By law you are supposed declare it to your airline.
When I went in the Navy the first thing I was taught in boot camp was "never put yourself on report." I think you just violated that simple rule.

Posted by: Kevin on January 20, 2005 09:17 AM
2. Fire arms in check luggage is permitted. I've traveled for years with no problems.

Having a firearm on your person or carry on baggage is a different story.

Posted by: smoke on January 20, 2005 09:18 AM
3. Pardon my ignorance here, but....

Why would a firearm in a piece of checked luggage, totally inaccessible to the passenger, be a problem? Obviously one should not be able to carry a weapon in the passenger cabin - but in a checked bag? Sheesh.

Reminds me of an experience my wife had flying home from Saudi Arabia. Seems the baggage screener mistook a pair of tweezers in her carryon bag for a knife (?) - took her nearly an hour to get things sorted out. ("Watch out, or I'll attack you with my tweezers!")

Posted by: Patrick on January 20, 2005 09:18 AM
4. It's so nice to hear airline security is protecting from rogue firearms.

I admire the common sense that directed you to carry a firearm, and I'm glad they let you keep it.

Posted by: Patty-Jo on January 20, 2005 09:31 AM
5. Within three weeks of 9/11 I flew round trip Seattle - San Jose on family business, carrying my trusty violin in its case. At three of the total four screening occasions, I (an evil white male) was 'randomly' selected for the Full Detailed Micro-Screen Procedure, violin case included. Plundered, picked over, field-stripped, examined, undressed, inspected, assayed and sorted and analyzed.

Not one of those nervous eagle-eyed minions noticed the deadly fingernail clippers in that violin case.

Posted by: Insufficiently Sensitive on January 20, 2005 09:32 AM
6. This story is hilarious...sad, but funny. I also was under the impression that having a gun in your luggage was A-ok...although perhaps not a loaded gun.

What a lot of hooey...shouldn't they be spending their time looking for people trying to HIDE weapons, not openly admitting to them. Of all the absurdity.

Posted by: megs on January 20, 2005 09:40 AM
7. Quite a story, Marsha!

U2's song "The Wanderer," features Johnny Cash, who sings about heading out with a Bible and a gun.

Posted by: Seth Cooper on January 20, 2005 09:40 AM
8. What was learned from this experience?

DONT REPORT THE GUN

And the results impact on airline safety?

NONE

Posted by: Tim on January 20, 2005 09:42 AM
9. As a former airline worker for British Airways, I can attest to the fact it is indeed okay to carry firearms in a checked piece of luggage. The ammo however must be in a different case than the gun and can not exceed a certain weight limit.

Posted by: christopher on January 20, 2005 10:00 AM
10. I have a similar story . . . .

One weekend my wife and kids and I decided to go to Vancouver, B.C. for a day trip. We live in Olympia so we prepared for a rather long drive to the border . From what I recall we departed about 7AM. At that time I had a permit for carrying a pistol in the State of Washington and carried one on a regular basis for protection much like Marsha did. I was an outside salesperson who did spend quite a bit of time on the road in Western Washington and at times was in places that I was unfamiliar (think Thomas Guide).

On the morning of the trip I was loading the car for the trip and as usual I brought along the little waist pack that contained my wallet, gum perhaps and yes, you can see where this is going, my pistol. We drove along enjoying the scenery and reached the border in good time, taking our place in line to make the border crossing.

The year was as far as I can remember 1998 or 1999, although my wife might have a better recollection of when exactly it was.

So here we are in the line of cars waiting to cross the border and suddenly I remembered that I was carrying a pistol in the car with me. At that point I really did not know what the best course of action was, I pondered somehow leaving the line of cars and turning back, but at that point it was not possible, we were technically already in Canada.

Upon reaching the border station I was given the regular series of questions and gave the regular answers, until I was asked if I had anything to 'declare' (which of course I did) With both hands on the wheel, and the kids not having any idea what COULD happen, I simply told them that I was possession of a loaded firearm and had a permit (of course that means nothing in Canada) to carry it in the State of Washington but had entered the line of cars to cross and upon realizing that I was in possession of it was already technically in Canada.

With a rather worried expression she used her radio to contact someone inside the building, more than likely a watch supervisor, and told them what she had been told. Two fellows, armed themselves, appeared from the building and really just looked on as we sat there as she continued to have some type of discussion with the person on the other end of the line. I was told to drive to a parking space and please keep both hands on the wheel until someone came to meet me there.

Upon arriving at my designated parking space one of the armed fellows, I believe wearing a uniform that I would guess was of the type that the Canadian armed forces might wear, I was told to unload the pistol and hand it over to him. I did so and was then asked to come inside.

This whole process was very low key up to this point, no yelling, no guns drawn, nothing like that whatsoever.

I proceeded to enter the watch building and there was the pistol lying on the counter, the guy with the bigger gun beside it.

At this point I am somewhat nervous, but not really that much so due to the nature of things so far. I still had no clue as to what would be done in a situation like this but was starting to feel relieved that everything was going positively.

They handed me a piece of paper, a receipt or bill of lading and told me to fill it out, which I did, and then showed the my identification, and was told to enjoy my trip and I would be free to retrieve the pistol upon coming back through the checkpoint at the end of our trip.

We enjoyed our day, came back with as little funny money as we could and picked it up, that was that . . .of course I was chastised by my wife, in a joking manner, for what happened but it all ended nicely.

I imagine that if this would have been post-9/11 things would have been very very

Not that it makes ANY difference whatsoever, I will let those who might feel the need to ask . . .we are a white couple, 30 years old at the time . .

Posted by: EB on January 20, 2005 10:06 AM
11. Tim-

Seems like the moral should be if you make this mistake on the outbound trip stay mum and see if anyone discovers it, then on the return trip bring it home the kosher way, declared and locked up.

The down side figures to be +$200 on the fine. The up side is zero fine.

My father said that, although, in todays world, I dont know what I would have done. I did think that it was acceptable to transport if it was unloaded . .I guess you could always ask, but can you imagine how that would go over? You cannot even mention the word GUN in an airport without having someone look at you funny.

Posted by: EB on January 20, 2005 10:15 AM
12. So I read this story and think to myself, everything worked out fine. Marsha was suitably questioned (she did in fact have an undeclared loaded weapon for one flight segment), was subsequently deemed not to be a threat, and allowed to continue on her way. I think security would have been remiss not to question her to A) Determine if she was a threat in any way, and B) Determine if any security procedures were broken (i.e. did screeners in Seattle fail somehow). Now, I understand that having a loaded weapon in a checked bag may not be the biggest terrorist threat out there, but 4 planes were taken down in 2001 with freakin' box cutters.

Posted by: BellaDog on January 20, 2005 10:24 AM
13. Marsha,

You are to be totally commended for choosing to to the vastly more difficult thing, in declaring your mistake to the authorities. I work in this post-911 environment, and I am keenly aware of how frustrating it is to deal with the federal bureaucrats. There is a suspension of reality in order to understand the regulations and their enforcement.

Can you imagine if you had made it onto the airplane with the weapon in your handbag? (It has happened).

Unfortunately, there can be a lack of reasonable treatment afforded the law-abiding citizen. The laws/regulations are geared towards criminal acts and only intervention by the rare level-headed official prevents the daily arrests and frog-marching of grandmothers through the airports.

I am glad that you were released and only fined $200 - ouch -

Posted by: Shaun on January 20, 2005 10:36 AM
14. Shades of Barney Fife... "did they nip it in the bud?"

Posted by: South County on January 20, 2005 10:52 AM
15. Wow, great (and amazing) story Marsha! Thanks for sharing.

Phew. Good thing we're being kept safe from people who declare guns in checked luggage. I'm glad you have a gun and a permit (so do I) and did not shy away from your constitutional right to own and carry one for self-defense when pressed.

And Bibles and guns are not mutually exclusive. God's law permits a man (or woman) to defend himself and/or his family when attacked or lives endangered - see Exodus 22:2-3, for example.

As for the cops questions about why you carry a firearm, not only are the cops not likely to be standing right next to you, but the supreme court declared that police don't have a duty to protect any particular citizen, only to generally enforce the laws. This has been upheld on numerous occasions after people relying on police to protect them were raped, murdered, etc.

Anyway, glad to see you got off relatively unscathed. And I was again reminded that living here in demland isn't so bad...it could be worse - I could live in Chicago or DC where guns are outlawed and only outlaws have guns (highest murder rates in the country).

Posted by: Scott on January 20, 2005 10:53 AM
16. The problem, of course, is that now you are on some sort of "list" kept by the Federal Government.

I suspect this is not the last you will hear of it.

Posted by: Iguana on January 20, 2005 10:53 AM
17. Oh yeah, my dad had a funny airport security story. Basically, right after 9/11, they found his nail clippers in a bag (I know, oooh, scary). The nervous security guy determined that the clippers would have to be broken. My dad said that it was ok, just keep them, he'd replace it. The security guy insisted on breaking them, and kept my dad there for a good while while he wrestled with the thing, trying to break it apart. Eventually he succeeded, though I still don't know what the point of it all was.

Posted by: Scott on January 20, 2005 10:58 AM
18. Iquana,

She already is in the FBI database due to her CPP. That's probably why it was so easy for her-- the FBI knew she was a law abiding person

Posted by: Mike H on January 20, 2005 11:07 AM
19. I've flown the friendly skies several times with guns. They just want to make sure the guns are unloaded and separate from the ammo. Then they slap the "Steal Me" sticker on the case or bag and you're on your way.

That said, I'm always amazed at how many people are completely thrown for a loop at the thought of a civilian owning a firearm. It's like they're meeting someone from a strange culture that they've heard about, but didn't really believe existed.

-Zeb

Posted by: Zebediah on January 20, 2005 11:15 AM
20. Marsha, what an experience! Very stressful, to say the least. To improve the mood, I recommend we get by the SPAA Range and work through a couple boxes of .357 Magnum...
Scott

Posted by: P. Scott on January 20, 2005 11:21 AM
21. I am shaking my head in disbelief at the hoplophobes and their comments/questions to your regarding your daring to even consider caring a gun and a bible!! Oh the horrors!!!

Posted by: Scott in carnation on January 20, 2005 11:56 AM
22. With all due respect, this could have been much worse. Had Ms. Richards taken possession of the firearm in Chicago, she could have been arrested and charged with violating the handgun permit laws of both the State of Illinois and the City of Chicago. Jail time would have been one possible result. Such a conviction would result in loss of
Washington State CHL and loss _for life_ of the right to own firearms.

If indeed she flew on to Washington, D.C. then I hope the firearm was not taken into the District, as that would be a serious crime there as well (unless she happened to be one of the DC residents possessing a permit prior to 1977..). Same results, if convicted, as above.

People who own firearms must make it their business to know the law of every place they go. Things that are perfectly legal in, say, Montana or Arizona can get one a mandatory 1 year prison term in Massachusetts -- and -- permanent disqualification to ever own a firearm again, for life.

Flying with firearms is not difficult, the advice is available in the rec.guns FAQ and other places. The FAA regulations are online (Federal Aviation Regulations, FARS). The key issues so far as TSA and FAA are concerned are:

1. Gun UNLOADED
2. Gun secured in a locking case, to which owner has only key
3. Ammunition separate from gun
4. Firearms form filled out at check in

Failure to follow the regulations can result in fines larger than those paid by Ms. Richards; she was lucky.

Different airlines have different restrictions on amount of ammunition & so forth. Contact the airline in advance. Many people carry copies of the FARs on their person in order to avoid incorrect actions by ticket agents, many of whom are not at all familiar with the regulations.

One last point: The advice to not declare the firearm is very, very bad. The TSA standard is currently to X-ray _every bag_ that goes onto an aircraft, and undeclared firearms are very, very likely to be discovered, leading to an unpleasant situation at best, and serious legal problems at worst.

Know the law, follow the law, or don't fly.

Posted by: rec.guns.regular on January 20, 2005 12:56 PM
23. Hey Marsha, so what kind of Beretta was it? I carry a .32 Tomcat, always. And yep, I do have a Washington CWP.
Good on ya!

Regards,
Zoomie

Posted by: Zoomie on January 20, 2005 02:21 PM
24. From the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

Airport gun arrest backfires
Officer defied order: When honeymooner tried to turn over gun, police squabbled over response.
Lyda Longa - Staff
Thursday, May 25, 2000


Before an Arkansas newlywed was arrested at Hartsfield International Airport last weekend after telling authorities she had found a gun in her luggage, Atlanta police had some obstacles to overcome --- namely one of their own police officers, who refused to charge the woman, and a Clayton County judge, who refused to issue a warrant for her arrest.

"The officer became very emotional and he said he would not arrest this girl," said Maj. M.L. Brooks, commander of Atlanta's airport unit. "He yelled at his supervisor."

The officer, whose name was not released Wednesday, did not agree that 20-year-old Alison Reed of Alexander, Ark., should be arrested Sunday at Hartsfield.

Reed, who had just gotten married eight hours earlier and was on her way to Cancun through Atlanta, had discovered a .22-caliber pistol wedged in her carry-on bag.

The gun belongs to her mother, Tommie Reed, who had forgotten the weapon was there when she loaned the bag to her daughter.

When Reed, a student at the University of Arkansas, found the gun, she immediately reported it to a security guard who in turn called police.

"The officer called his supervisor and told him he was faced with a situation he did not know how to handle," Brooks said. "His sergeant called a lieutenant, and the lieutenant told them to arrest Ms. Reed. He should have followed the order and discussed it with his supervisor later."

That didn't happen, and Sgt. S. Hutchins had to send in a second officer to arrest Reed.

The first officer in the meantime was relieved of duty for the day, Brooks said.

But the Atlanta officer wasn't the only one on Reed's side.

Clayton County Magistrate Judge John Campbell said Atlanta police called him shortly after they nabbed the newlywed. The officer was seeking an arrest warrant from Campbell so Reed could be taken to the Clayton County Jail.

"I did not feel there was probable cause for an arrest warrant," Campbell said. "The police did nothing wrong or unusual, but there was no probable cause."

The officer is now under investigation for refusing to follow an order and possibly for insubordination, said Chip Warren, vice president of the International Brotherhood of Police Officers.

"The officer believed he was receiving an improper order," Warren said Wednesday.

"My concern is, the girl did the right thing. What's going to happen to other people faced with this same situation?"

Reed --- honeymooning at last in Cancun with her husband, Jason Combs --- laughed about her experience Wednesday.

"At least I know there was one person in that Police Department that wanted to help me. I tried do do the right thing, and they put me through hell. This makes you wonder what to do the next time."

Posted by: Alan in Las Vegas on January 20, 2005 02:26 PM
25. Thanks, all, for the great comments and stories.

Many have commented on the legality of transporting declared firearms. They're right and the couple of times I've declared the gun since my misadventure have been without incident. It's also very true that gun laws different widely by state and city; very important to know what they are if you choose to travel with a gun.

Make and model of my gun, since some have asked: .32 Beretta Tomcat. I recommend it for women who want to get a small, manageable self-defense weapon.

Posted by: Marsha Richards on January 20, 2005 05:04 PM
26. Laws should make sense, but often they don't. When they don't, the enforcers should be held up to ridicule. Sometimes all we have left is to laugh.

Posted by: Walter E. Wallis on January 20, 2005 06:41 PM
27. Sorry -- the name below is not my real name. I carry a Beretta just like Marsha does. That is, unless one of my daughters has it in her pocket. On a trip less than four months months ago, I declared the pistol and sent it through the luggage X-ray. I was told to stand next to the machine as the bag was examined. The X-ray operator still didn't see it. As she threw the bag on the conveyor, I said, "Um, that was the bag with the gun in it." She gave me a sheepish look, grinned and waved me on.

As far as putting yourself on report -- No good deed goes unpunished.

Especially in Chicago.

Mike

Posted by: Mike Royko on January 20, 2005 08:06 PM
28. Hmmmm, I've been stopped for forgetting that my haircutting scissors were in my overnight bag, which gets x-rayed and that's when I get 'busted'. Twice, I've had to mail the darn things home before I pass through the rest of security so I don't lose them ($28 apiece) altogether.

Posted by: Michele S on January 20, 2005 09:52 PM
29. Fire arms in check luggage is permitted. I've traveled for years with no problems.

That is correct, but a loaded firearm is a big no-no. I've traveled with my piece too and the only trouble I've had was when two TSA flunkies argued over whether a magazine is a "container designed for ammunition."

I'm surprised, however, that you as a conservative acknowledged the possibility of a one-way ticket to GTMO. Don't be surprised if you end up on John "Himmler" Ashcroft's secret "no-fly" list.

Posted by: Critical Thinker on January 20, 2005 11:35 PM
30. In November, 2002 my wife and I moved from Reno to western Washington, and part of the move involved a one-way flight back to Reno to retrieve a car (to drive home). So the wife and I booked a one-way flight from Seattle to Reno.

Upon arriving and hopping into a rental car, my wife smiled and said "guess what?" She pulled out a 4" folding, locking-blade Browning Hunting Knife (from a previous camping trip) that was in a side pocket of her CARRY ON bag! Now this knife has never been used for anything more sinister than slicing cheese and salami... yet it is a righteous and proper Very Bad Knife.

Now, at this time, ALL one-way travel was suspect, and we were both given the most thorough search (shoes off, etc.). At the boarding gate, we were given a SECOND search that involved opening and searching our carry-on bags. This bag had been x-rayed, and then opened and searched a second time at the gate!

I thought about reporting this to TSI at the time (to complain about their "thorough" search procedures). Based on this gun story, I'm sure glad I didn't!

Posted by: Jim W on January 21, 2005 10:10 AM
31. Aww Marsha...

That was a GREAT story...albeit spending all the time 'tied up' wasn't that much fun...it WAS an adventure...and that's the way we keep our humor going...isn't it?

If I had a dime...not a dollar...for everytime I carried a loaded gun onto a military reservation...I would be on a beach somewhere...on vacation forever...

You JUST DON'T THINK ABOUT IT after awhile...my husband used to turn to me as we were in line entering post and say: "Youv'e got your gun don't you?"

We'd end up breaking it down and leaving the gun in the glovebox and the magazine in my purse...(even the doctors' on post got used to it in my pile a clothing in the exam room)...

But...

My FAVORITE airport security story involved an 'appliance' used in 'equine artificial insemination'...that I was bringing back from Minneapolis to Seattle...

The 'appliance' has no descriptive nomenclature on it...it is a long cylindrical device about two feet long with twin handles...

In short...it looks like a nuclear device...it was stuffed with the assorted latex goo-gaa accessories...shoulder-length gloves...etc...as well as a 'hemocytometer'...a graduated slide for use in a microscope for examining and identifying microscopic 'particles'...

The security folks couldn't wait to tear into my luggage after they saw it in the scanner...

I calmly stood waiting to be 'escorted to the floor'...and 'interviewed'...

Nobody asked me a thing...they just waved me on...and then tore into my luggage...everything was shredded...a 'informational' note was left behind...(and all of my black unmentionables disappeared from my bags...my husband wanted me to file a claim...)

Best of luck in your future flights!! (Or welcome to the club!!)

~Lori

Posted by: Lori on January 23, 2005 08:13 PM
32. It could have been worse; the incident could have happened in NY. At least Chicago doesn't arrest you simply for having a gun you can legally possess at the beginning and ending points of your trip.

Posted by: Xrlq on January 26, 2005 09:07 AM
33. This is all BS. She didn't forget she had a gun in her purse. What lady puts her purse in checked baggage? This was all a calculated, staged event to bring attention to herself. She enjoyed too much, describing the events seriatim of her "ordeal." Oh, but let's not make her cry. What a crock.

Posted by: Joe on January 26, 2005 09:20 AM
34. Not the airport, but just as stupid.

For over 15 years I've kept a large safety pin on my keyring to secure my keys in my pocket during Physical Training (US Army, Ret)

I had to remove it and throw it away in order to get into the Federal Bldg in Seattle.

I was just glad not to be fined for carrying an unregistered safety pin.

Posted by: Smoke on January 26, 2005 09:42 AM
35. "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed"

Our Founding Fathers who wrote that must be rolling in their graves (probably for many years now). What has happened to my country? I want my country back!

Posted by: Captain America on January 26, 2005 10:34 AM
36. These security folks are classic! Just don't smoke!

On my traditional golf journey to Michigan last summer my checked baggage was searched. As many women well know, men's golf outings usually involved over imbibement and cigars. Knowing that beer was available on the course and that cigars are supplied, I felt no need to pack either. But I do know that very few players in the group keep lighters for our indulgences....so I packed my small butane and lighter fluid refills for replenishment of my lighters.

You all know what is next, they took them out of my golf bag with "the note". Do they think I'm Craig Chappell for "ConAir"?

At least no one lit up on that flight, so a job once again well done TSA.

Never have so many suffered so much, so that so few could have jobs, so that no one, could feel completely not so safe!

Posted by: Craig on January 26, 2005 10:34 AM
37. I've never told this story. I shoot fairly regularly. I was flying on holiday, Atlanta to London, with a transfer to Istanbul.

A few days before my flight, I gave my old car away to charity. While cleaning it out, I found a handful of .32 pistol cartridges, and stuck them in my pocket. I forgot all about them, but the metal detector at boarding reminded me, as did the Army airport guards. Bullets in the trash and onto the plane.

I was incredibly lucky.

It was October 2001...

Posted by: umbk on January 26, 2005 10:42 AM
38. What did you THINK was going to happen when you told the airline about the undeclared loaded gun in your suitcase?

Since it was loaded there is the possibility that it could go off due to the rough handling of the luggage. If you had NOT told them and it had gone off hurting or killing a baggage handler, what do you think would have happened to you?

You did correctly by reporting it.

Now since you apparently do not like the reaction of the Police, TSA, or the FBI, what would you have wanted them to do?

If the airline had NOT reported the incident to the authorities, they would have been fined more than $200.00! Should they have taken the rap for your forgetfulness?

The police had to respond. And under agreements, they had to report the incident to the TSA/FBI since they receive funding from the federal government. Besides gun "crimes" at airports do fall under federal law.

So what is it that was wrong with the situation? The only thing I see wrong (besides your forgetfulness) was that the police officer used city funds (gas and vehicle) to get you an appropriate container. But police are known to be kindly in such ways.

Now if the TSA/FBI had NOT responded, the public would have a righteous complaint.

As for the $200.00 fine. YOU committed the act. I KNOW that it cost the airline, Police, TSA/FBI more than the $200.00 in time and expenses. Plus you agreed to the fine. You did not have to do so (as you implied), but you took the "easy way out."

All in all, you did the right thing to correct your mistake and those that responded did EXACTLY what they are paid to do.

Posted by: Stephen on January 26, 2005 11:21 AM
39. See also my web page on airtravel with firearms and various stories.

Posted by: Joe Huffman on January 26, 2005 11:25 AM
40. Next time when confronted with the same dilemma, go to the bookstore instead and buy a Dean Koontz novel.

Great story; great writing.

Posted by: Brent Anderson on January 26, 2005 12:00 PM
41. I must wonder what the response of the Chicago PD would have been if she were traveling to Chicago and not through it. She would certainly not have been able to keep the gun though she may have been able to avert criminal charges by refusing to take possession of the baggage while the gun was in it. On another note she was traveling to Washington DC. Thank goodness for her the airport there must have been outside of DC limits and subject to VA law, not DC law. She would have had the same problem in DC as in Chicago if they knew she had the gun. Just posting her story is dangerous for her. If she had flown into NY she would have been sunk. She may have been able to quietly claim her bag but when returning, if the gun was with her, she would have been arrested. There is no way she could, under NY law (or Chicago law if she flew out of that city) had the gun with her at the airport.

Finally, I have no pity for somebody who doesn't know where they have left their loaded gun. How many places does this lady go to in a day where she leaves her purse laying around with a loaded gun in it. That type of irresponsible behavior really ticks me off.

Posted by: Musketeer on January 26, 2005 12:14 PM
42. A while ago I was flying to Phoenix, and was carrying my bagpipes in my carry on luggage. As it went through the xray machine, I could almost see the huge cartoon question mark appear over the head of the person manning the scanner. He blinked. He stared. He turned his head sideways to see if a different angle would help him identify...whatever... this item was. He called over several other security people over, and the same process was repeated with each of them.

Finally, they looked at me and said, "Ok, we give up. Before we open the bag up to take a look, what on Earth do you have in here?" They weren't concerned so much as mystified. I replied that this must be the first stand of bagpipes that had gone through the station in a while, and everyone had a good laugh once they opened the bag and confirmed it.

Posted by: bugz on January 26, 2005 12:28 PM
43. BOTH airports flying into Washington, DC are actually located in the Commonwealth of Virginia a right to carry state (one of the first actually).

Washington Dulles Airport (IAD) is in Dulles, Virginia

Reagan Washington National Airport is in Arlington, Virginia

Posted by: Vegas Sky Marshal on January 26, 2005 03:47 PM
44. Finally, they looked at me and said, "Ok, we give up. Before we open the bag up to take a look, what on Earth do you have in here?" They weren't concerned so much as mystified. I replied that this must be the first stand of bagpipes that had gone through the station in a while, and everyone had a good laugh once they opened the bag and confirmed it.

Funny!

If I didn't want to get on the plane, I might have called him a philistine.

Posted by: Critical Thinker on January 26, 2005 04:59 PM
45. It is kind of silly. There are several ways to get weapons on board planes if you want to and the ill-trained (I no longer put my pocket watch into my carryon bag as directed and is convenient, I always leave it outside, saves from having my carryon searched for a 'timing device' every other flight) and low paid TSA agents won't ever catch on.

Posted by: Oh Well on January 26, 2005 11:50 PM
46. Correct that they're concerned about baggage handlers "appropriating the weapon. Would not be the first time that they "go shopping" at work

Posted by: Ziggy on January 27, 2005 06:33 AM
47. Correct that they're concerned about baggage handlers "appropriating the weapon. Would not be the first time that they "go shopping" at work

Posted by: Ziggy on January 27, 2005 06:33 AM
48. I am pretty disturbed at the fact that Marsha is being made out to be some kind of heroine here. While I applaud her for turning herself over, the bottom line here is that, as a gun owner, she has a RESPONSIBILITY to, be RESPONSIBLE. She left a loaded gun in her purse...unsupervised. Who knows what could have resulted from that, and we are supposed to think this is OK?

Posted by: D-Hoggs on January 27, 2005 08:42 AM
49. For the record, D-Hoggs, I agree with you. Bottom line: I shouldn't have forgotten about a handgun in my purse. While I think people have taken their fear of guns to new heights in recent times, it's absolutely important to own and use them responsibly.

Posted by: Marsha Richards on January 27, 2005 09:49 AM
50.
There is no way she could, under NY law (or Chicago law if she flew out of that city) had the gun with her at the airport.

I'm pretty sure you're wrong as to Chicago. When I lived in the area (1993-96) you could fly in and out of O'Hare with a checked handgun, as long as you didn't live in Chicago or any of the 'burbs that ban handguns.

Posted by: Xrlq on January 27, 2005 03:43 PM
51. Marsha, you got away from Sh*tcago with your gun? Holy merde, you were lucky. Many of the local police forces in the Sh*tcago area are the most corrupt organizations in the country. Your pistol could have wound up in the hands of a local gang banger. It seems they buy some of their guns from the property rooms and evidence lockers of the various police forces.

Posted by: Kaeghl on January 28, 2005 06:43 PM
52. Marsha, you got away from Sh*tcago with your gun? Holy merde, you were lucky. Many of the local police forces in the Sh*tcago area are the most corrupt organizations in the country. Your pistol could have wound up in the hands of a local gang banger. It seems they buy some of their guns from the property rooms and evidence lockers of the various police forces.

Posted by: Kaeghl on January 28, 2005 06:43 PM
53. Marsha, you got away from Sh*tcago with your gun? Holy merde, you were lucky. Many of the local police forces in the Sh*tcago area are the most corrupt organizations in the country. Your pistol could have wound up in the hands of a local gang banger. It seems they buy some of their guns from the property rooms and evidence lockers of the various police forces.

Posted by: Kaeghl on January 28, 2005 06:43 PM
54. Now what did I do to post this 3 times? could the administrator please delete this, and 2 of my posts? thanks

Posted by: Kaeghl on January 28, 2005 06:45 PM
55. Joe said: "What lady puts her purse in checked baggage?"

Actually Joe, it's not that uncommon. Purses are heavy and a pain to move around with. It's a royal pain traveling with one as it flops off my shoulder and gets in my way, or bashes people as I move through the aisle on the plane to my seat.

I always unload the things I must have during those hours of traveling (cash, credit cards, plane-tickets, passport) and put the purse itself in my suitcase. I have a smaller suitcase type bag that I use for my carry-on stuff... book, etc, including the stuff I took out of my purse... or I use the laptop bag.

And as for the confiscation of weapons... I had a toy gun which my daughter had won at a fair in Scotland confiscated in Glasgow before we came home. It was in our checked baggage, but I thought I'd let the screeners know that it was there, so they didn't freak... well, now that I've seen the way they freaked, I've decided "next time" I'll just mail it home. They confiscated a *toy*! LOL Boy that is rich.

Posted by: Cathy on January 29, 2005 09:13 AM
56. Please contact me. I have information that may be important to you.

Posted by: Harry on January 29, 2005 10:49 AM
57. I feel the time will come when people who carry Bibles will be treated as if it were a gun. I know our founding fathers would trun over in their graves if they could see how our rights to arms and to worship as we please has nearly come to naught. A teacher can't pray out loud for her class or give a child a Bible, but they can force them to read books like "I have two mommies". I can't carry a gun without PERMISSION. But the bad guys don't seem to have any trouble getting them and use them on the innocent. (this week a man shot a construction worker while he was in a port a pottie. (He will make a full recovery).

Don't be surprised when God quits blessing America. Just like God blessed King Solomon for David's sake, we are blessed for our forefathers sake. In light of the wide spread imorality in this country, I'm guessing our blessings have about run out. We can turn us around one at a time. Visit (www.needGod.com)to see how.

Posted by: Mary on February 2, 2005 11:11 PM
58. Wow... what a great story to share for such a great writer! I thoroughly enjoyed that piece, as everytime I've been detained I know that feeling of contained irritibility (and I'm not a 20-something hoodlum either that is in and out of jail). Do you think you could write an "alternate" ending??? Where you go back to Chicago and start blowing folks away for being so stupid? An act of humanity, as I see it, because it's gotta' hurt to be that dumb, which leaves you with one course of action... *BANG* *BANG* *BANG* *BANG* *BANG* *BANG* *BANG* *BANG* *BANG*
Have a BANGin' day!!!! You Beretta-Trigger-Pulling, Bullet-Blastin'-Bible-Baggin'-Bin Laden-Brainiac *wink*

Posted by: Solo on August 31, 2005 03:26 AM
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