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Brilliant hack: Secure your checked bags by declaring a weapon (boingboing.net)
93 points by Alex3917 on Jan 14, 2010 | hide | past | web | favorite | 32 comments

This has been known forever to people who frequently travel with high-value gear (photographers, videographers, etc.)

It is a good hack, but it also prevents you from easily doing kiosk bag check-and-drop stuff, so there is a lot of waiting in line. And I wouldn't recommend it for international travel.

I haven't kept good track, but I'm sure I've flown over 200,000 miles in the last decade, with all sorts of miscellaneous high-value gear. The only domestic baggage incident I've had was a Canon EOS5D and 28-300mm L lens go missing on a flight from SFO->BOS. Granted that was an ~$5,000 loss, I probably should have kept the gear in carry-on. I don't think I would have wanted to deal with the process of declaring a weapon in my bags on every flight where I had something work stealing just to prevent the 1 incident out of 1,000 where there was actual threat, that's why I have insurance.

It's also a good way to get arrested at a Chicago or NYC/NJ airport if you're forced to be reunited with your checked bags (say your flight gets diverted).

Why, are starter pistols illegal there? Are there no provisions for people carrying weapons through those cities?

Even in the case of checked luggage with a firearm, it is usually required (and a good idea in any case) that the weapon be unloaded and disabled (gun lock, etc.). My personal opinion is that the airline is not going to call the local authorities and tell them they just turned over a bag with a weapon to you. So, as long as you don't call attention to yourself, the likelihood of getting arrested is too small to worry about.

Not sure, but to my knowledge they arrest first and would check on those sorts of details later.

And yes, there is a "provision" for carrying a weapon through those cities, the Firearms Owners Protection Act (FOPA) of 1986, but it only provides a defense once you've been charged. You would spend weeks or months with your life in turmoil, perhaps locked up (you're obviously a flight risk, no ties to the community) and spending significant money for competent counsel to get the charges eventually dismissed.

And this does frequently happen (arrests at O'Hare, La Guardia (sp?), JFK and I think Newark), enough so that I don't see the ruse as being worth the risk.

No, there's explicit legislation at the federal level making it legal to transport firearms. This overrides any state and local laws. The conditions are basically: (a) You can legally possess the gun at your origin and ultimate destination; (b) you take a reasonable route between them; (c) firearm is unloaded and not immediately accessible.

See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Firearm_Owners_Protection_Act#....

That makes it legal, but:

It obviously doesn't stop an abusive law enforcement agency from ignoring the law, e.g. the New Jersey State Police were notorious for doing that until they got slapped down enough times.

The FOPA provides a defense; legally, as a matter of procedure, all it does it allow you to get a case dismissed.

And as noted, it has specifically has not stopped travelers in the cited airports from getting arrested when they were forced to take possession of their luggage en route due to a diversion or whatever. (In fact, if you were to take gun to a hotel in such a situation the FOPA wouldn't protect you at all, would it?)

You've "noted" this happening several times, but so far, you're the only source of this info.

Grrr, there are too many false positives for me to be able to find a case using Google (i.e. people trying to take guns through security, theft of guns in checked baggage, etc.).

So this is going to have to a matter of trust: trust my memory and distrust notoriously anti-gun cities/states. Or not, it's your time, money and freedom on the line.

I should also note that the usual point of arrest is after the victim accepts his checked baggage, when he later declares the firearm at the baggage counter when restarting his journey.

You don't even need the gun - you just need the case. We carry long lenses and tripods in a Pelicase - the only one that fits is the gun case design.

If you buy the camoflage pattern one it is generally treated as a gun by the airport - even if you don't declare it.

It means a trip to the luggage office at the destination to recover it from the locked secure baggage area but thats a small price to pay for a free armed guard.

You need to declare it to be able to have your case locked.

We just secure them with security cable ties. Any baggage handler wanting to steal from a case is going to have a knife or a pair of cutters anyway, all a lock does is stop a casual pickpocket.

The main problem in the US is that baggage claim is on the street side of the airport and security is limited to a mall cop who might check your ticket tags if he can be bothered. A nice shiny camera case going around the conveyor 10ft from the open door is the main risk.

I don't think you understand. When checking a firearm, the case must be locked. The TSA can't open it. If they see something suspicious on the x-ray, they call you and ask you to open it. To steal anything inside your luggage, the thief must either break the lock or take the entire case. They'll also have to deal with lots of officials trying to track down a stolen firearm.

My hack is that I don't check baggage.

For my personal item, I use a backpack. I have a nice, big L.L. Bean backpack that fits a ton of stuff in it.

For my carry-on, I use a soft bag of the appropriate size. You might be able to compress more stuff into the hard case rollaways, but the nice thing about the soft bag is that it always makes it into the overhead compartment (unlike many of the hard case suitcases I've seen.)

But I guess if you're traveling with a lot of camera equipment you wouldn't have that option.

You're not allowed carry-on on US domestic or flights to the US now.

I flew on Jan 11 (3 days ago) with just this method.

I think the restriction is that you're only allowed to have a personal item on international flights. Domestic flights are the same as always.

What makes you say that? http://www.tsa.gov/311/index.shtm even identifies how you can bring items on to the plane.

Is that the directive in response to the guy that started his blanket on fire? I'm pretty sure that expired December 30, 2009. Or has there been a different change to TSA policies?

I think he's probably referring to changes on the carry-on luggage policy in response to the Christmas bomber. I don't know why they bothered, the bomb was in his underwear anyway.

I flew from Germany to NYC a week ago with a carry on and a personal item. Security in Germany was significantly less strict (e.g. no shoe x-rays) than is typical in the US, even before the Christmas bombing attempt.

I boarded a plane in china once and they explicitly asked me if I had nunchucks. They do the spiel on sharp/flammable items, but nunchucks don't fit in an obvious category like that, so they spell it out (makes sense, but was hilarious at the time).

nunchuks are Ok but don't try it wearing a T-shirt with a picture of a power ranger on it.


Try bringing that in to NL and you'll be arrested.

Funnily enough a mate of mine traveled into Holland with replica weapons recently with no problems at customs. He's a stage magician.

Sheer luck.


270 Euro maximum fine and an automatic charge for possession.

Better warn him not to do that again, next time he might not be so lucky.

Did he declare it? If he didn't it's a big chance it's just luck he didn't get caught. If he did, than it IS strange. In NL we have kinda strict laws against replica weapons.

Yeah, I believe he called them first, they were pretty laid back about the whole thing.

That says something pretty sad about the mental health / public policy of that destination...

Could you do that if you look a middle eastern?



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