By Mark Walters
Editors Note: AmmoLand News welcomes Mark Walters to our growing list of the best and brightest gun rights commentators, who are watching out for your RKBA.
USA – -(Ammoland.com)- If you were tuned into my national radio program on Sunday this week, you know I was broadcasting from the USCCA Wisconsin world headquarters, a beautiful, brand new facility that opened its doors for the first time on that following Monday morning.
Of course, my real studios are located a few hundred miles away near the ATL, so the trip required my boarding a massive jetliner to get to West Bend, WI.
Now, I never travel without a firearm, unless carrying a gun at my final destination is illegal, and while I try to avoid that at all costs, it’s not always feasible.
Sometimes you have to be where you have to be, and it’s out of your control.
When it is legal for me to carry, it requires me to check my gun with whatever airline is hauling me to my final destination.
It’s an easy process, as I have talked about and written about for many years, and should be no cause for intimidation to CCW travelers. But it is. In fact, it remains one of the most asked questions I get from listeners. As such, when I saw the following email yesterday from a fan of my show titled “Flying With A Firearm,” I was pretty much resigned to helping another traveler who was asking the standard questions about “what to do.” Instead, I saw this:
I thought I would pass this along so that you and your listeners are aware and can plan ahead.
I just checked in at the Norfolk airport with my firearm. The agent told me that my suitcase would be zip tied so that I cannot open it when I arrive in the St Louis. This change was effective yesterday.
In the future, I may pack a small knife in my outer pocket of this checked bag or in another checked bag so I can break the zip ties when I get to my car (or earlier).
The agent also mentioned that there was discussion about banning firearms in checked luggage altogether.
I will try to send you a photo of what my bag looks like with the zip ties when I pick it up later today.
Hmmm. What the hell is this, I thought? Certainly, this is something I would have known? I replied and asked him what airline he was flying and here’s his response:
Delta. This was just my 3rd time flying with a firearm…all on Delta.
So the plot thickens. “That’s funny,” I said to myself. I flew Delta the same day, returning from a three-day excursion up there to “Snowville” and never had a problem. No gate agent said or did anything out of the ordinary, (whatever that term means) but nothing unusual from anything else I have experienced on any other flight I have taken recently. Nada. We continued our exchange, and he said he would send me a picture of the “zip tied” luggage upon his arrival. He did reply but not with a photo. It seems the bag showed up at his destination without the zip tie but did have an outer tag. He told me:
No zip ties, but it did have a special tag that read “DO NOT PLACE ON THE BAGGAGE CAROUSEL BELT” with “CAGPT” in large letters. My other 3 checked bags (without firearms) did not have that tag. I picked all 4 bags up on the normal carousel.
A quick web search of CAGPT showed: “CAGPT” stands for Check And Give Protection To (Delta Airlines high value shipments)”.
The procedures have definitely changed, but perhaps not fully implemented yet.
I am glad to hear you are interested in this topic. If I learn anything new, I will pass it along.
Again, I had just flown the same airline, three days earlier and the very same day the emailer had written me with no such experience, so I did what I do. I dug a little deeper.
I started by reaching out to some influential folks, to see if they had heard of any such nonsense. They had not. I then went to the Delta website and re-read their procedures for traveling with a firearm. Nothing there that hasn’t always been there and no new news about any supposed “changes.” I followed that up with two separate phone calls to Delta, and in both cases, the representatives were extremely professional in their replies to my inquiries. According to both of them, there have been no changes that they are aware of and no new corporate directive that they had seen.
So what does this mean and why do I tell you about it? Because you need to know. See, I too have had boneheaded agents (yes, they’re boneheads if they are unaware of their corporate and TSA guidelines) give me wrong instruction at the ticket counter. How do I know it was wrong? Because I make it a point to know the rules. In one case, both the agent and the supervisor I requested were wrong, (and I knew it and told them I knew it) resulting in my being paged to the nearest phone 20 minutes later where I was met by airline security personnel and Atlanta PD officers who tried to claim I had not declared my firearm to the agents and were prepared to make an arrest. I embarrassed them all when they realized the ticket agent and supervisor were trying to cover their asses for giving me false information. (See, I had the proper signed card in my suitcase when they searched it in my presence, proving it was declared). The agents had insisted I no longer had to take the baggage to TSA for screening and they had “changed policy.” That was false, I knew it and made them aware of it. They told me I was wrong, didn’t know what I was talking about and subsequently took my bags in violation of what I knew to be proper procedure. They were wrong. I knew it. I got a free round trip flight out of it and I hope they were both fired.
The takeaway? Traveling with a firearm is simple. Millions of us do it every week, and there's no reason to be intimidated, but do yourself a couple of favors. First, arrive early enough to have time to relax before your flight and like me, have sufficient time to deal with something that might come up because of someone else’s ineptness, and second, know more than they do.
Trust me, that’s the easy part!
About Mark Walters
Mark Walters is the host of two nationally syndicated radio broadcasts, Armed American Radio and Armed American Radio's Daily Defense with Mark Walters. He is the Second Amendment Foundations 2015 Gun Rights Defender of the Year award recipient and co-author of two books, Lessons from Armed America with Kathy Jackson (Whitefeather Press) and Lessons from UnArmed America with Rob Pincus (Whitefeather Press)