I’m back home in Philadelphia, after my TSA ordeal. I guess at some point early at the NRA Convention, I slipped my spare magazine into my laptop bag.Â Caught a cold Friday, and through the Benadryl, and being up early in the morning to pack, I didn’t remember I had the spare mag for the Kel-Tec with me.
Bitter packed all the luggage up, because she’s more systematic than I am, but I unloaded my guns, unloaded the magazines, and put them back in the locked container to be put in with the checked bag.Â Got to the airport, declared the unloaded firearms to the ticket agent, got my orange ticket, checked the bag, and sniffled my way to the security checkpoint.
Shoes off, bag on the belt, laptop out, the whole drill.Â For some reason, the belt stopped, and the x-ray person motioned for someone else, and I had to wait.Â The guy took me aside, and told me I could watch, but not touch the bag as it was searched.Â He ran the explosive residue test, so I figured maybe something in my charger, iPod or iPhone must have looked weird.Â I was unconcerned as he searched the bag until he pulled the loaded magazine out of one of the pouches in my laptop bag.
“Oh shit!” I seem to recall saying.Â I nearly shit myself.Â I apologized to the TSA guy for my forgetfulness, and he took me over, photographed it, asked me how many rounds were in the mag, and what caliber.Â Filled out a form, and called the Phoenix Police.Â At this point I thought I was in a lot of trouble.Â TSA guy said this kind of thing happens a lot, and it’s not really a big deal, which took the pucker factor down a bit.Â Phoenix PD showed up, asked me what I was doing with the magazine, I told him I was at the NRA Convention, have a license to carry a firearm, had checked the firearms in my luggage legally, and had simple forgotten I had a spare magazine on me.
The Phoenix PD ran me through their system, and I must have come up clean, because he then asks me “What do you want to do with the magazine?” and I recall saying something like “Don’t you have to keep it?” he said “It would be a shame for you to lose a magazine and your ammo.Â I can take you back outside and we can hook you up with an envelope, and you can mail it to yourself.”
At this point I’m wondering what foreign planet I have stepped foot on.Â In Philly, I think I would be getting fingerprinted right about now.Â Â The cop says “This kind of thing happens all the time.Â Â It’s been happening more often with the NRA in town.”Â The TSA guy says “At least you didn’t forget the gun, that we would have handled differently.Â It’s really not a big deal.”Â Â He told me my name would go into a database, not the no fly list, but a database of people who have made my type of mistake, and if they never had a problem with me again, nothing would happen, but that they would likely prosecute on a second offense.
Taking me back out of the security checkpoint, and up to the information desk to mail back my magazine and ammo, I remembered that you can’t send ammo through the USPS, so I asked him if I could turn in the ammo, and just mail the magazine back, which is all I cared about anyway.Â TSA was fine with that.Â Phoenix PD also said it really wasn’t a big deal.Â After that I had to go through security again (passed this time) and was allowed to continue on my way.Â Â TSA and Phoenix PD were courteous the entire time, and the reassurance that it wasn’t a big deal helped me from freaking out.
Truth be told, I’m still a little freaked out by it.Â But you can bet next time I’m ripping my carry on apart beforehand to make sure I haven’t forgotten anything.Â So given my experience, I offer my readers who are flying with guns a bit of advice:
- Make a list of everything you brought with you, including how many rounds of ammunition, how many magazines, and keep it with the case.Â Â When you go to pack back up, make sure that the numbers in the case are the same as what you brought.
- Go through all your carry on, every compartment, pouch, etc in the bag.Â Make sure nothing prohibited found its way in there.Â Check before you cross into the security zone again, just to be sure.
- Perhaps a pocket pistol isn’t the best gun to travel with.Â Had it been a fully loaded Glock magazine, the weight of the bag would have been heavier than I’m used to, and I might have noticed.
- Give yourself plenty of time.Â I arrived early for the flight, and didn’t end up missing it because I had plenty of time.
You can bet next time I fly with guns, which hopefully won’t be for a while, I will follow this procedure.Â I’m glad TSA is understanding and gives everyone one “Ooops!” but it still bothers me.Â I’m usually very careful about these things, but after three days of light sleep, jet lag, and a nasty cold, it’s easy to forget a detail.