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Pack Carefully

Pack Carefully

I saw this story on the Fox News website the other day,

Portland International Airport baggage handler pleads guilty to stealing guns from passengers’ luggage

A former Portland International Airport baggage handler has pleaded guilty to charges that he stole guns from passengers’ bags last year.

Deshawn Antonio Kelly of Portland, Ore., worked at PDX as a contract baggage handler hired through a third-party when the thefts occurred from August 19, 2018 to September 17, 2018. During that time, Kelly was accused of stealing six guns from bags that had been checked by passengers traveling to and from the Oregon airport.

Fortunately, Kelly was caught pretty quickly or he might have gone on stealing and selling guns. At the least, law abiding gun owners traveling lawfully would be blamed for crimes in which they had no part and no control over stopping.

At worst, airlines would stop accepting firearms in checked baggage.

For those of you who aren’t aware, it is legal to transport firearms as checked luggage provided the owner follows both the TSA and airline rules. Which fortunately, are pretty much similar.

Briefly, the rules are,

  • The unloaded firearm must be in a secure container.
  • By secure, we mean locked.
  • Ammunition must be locked as well. Most airlines allow you to lock that in the same box, but a few don’t.
  • You must declare the firearm at the airline ticket counter and fill out a card provided to you by the airline staff.
  • The card either goes in the locked container or is taped on the outside. Which it is depends on factor I won’t bore you with right now.
  • After that, you follow the directions from the airline staff, which will vary somewhat based on the configuration of the airport.
  • When you arrive at your destination, you can either pick the bag in which the firearms case is locked up at the carousel OR you will have to find the baggage office and pick it up there.

That’s not too difficult, but there are a few “top tips” to make this easier.

First and foremost is, smile and be polite. The airline staff member you’re dealing with might not be familiar with their own company’s rules. Or the TSA rules either. I always bring, but have yet to have an excuse to use, a copy of the TSA regulations and the airlines specific rules. If there is any question, you can show it to the person in black and white.

Second, buy a good case for your firearms. If packing it inside a regular suitcase, use a cable to secure it to the frame. All suitcases that I’ve used over the past ten years have a metal frame for the pop up handle. That frame is inside the suitcase and pretty sturdy. That makes it just that much tougher to steal the gun case.

Third, take a picture of the suitcase. Actually, that’s a good idea even if you aren’t traveling with a firearm. That way, if the suitcase gets lost, you can show the person to whom you report the loss to exactly what the suitcase looks like. You can even email it to them.

Except for in a few areas where law enforcement doesn’t actually comply with the law or the Constitution (cough, New York, New Jersey), flying with firearms are not particularly difficult. The key is to pack them carefully, follow the TSA and airline rules, and as I said before, be polite to the airline staff.

That polite thing goes beyond just this topic. When there are glitches in your flight plans, being polite, sympathetic, and complimentary to the person upon whom you are depending for redress and assistance usually helps.

I prefer to be right behind a person who was a PITA and got nothing from the airline as a result. I smile, make a supportive comment about how hard this is for the airline staff, and ask for help in a polite way. It’s amazing how much discretion those folks have and how much more willing they are to help if you treat them decently.

That’s a topic for another column on another day.


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After a long career as a field EMS provider, I'm now doing all that back office stuff I used to laugh at. Life is full of ironies, isn't it? I still live in the Northeast corner of the United States, although I hope to change that to another part of the country more in tune with my values and beliefs. I still write about EMS, but I'm adding more and more non EMS subject matter. Thanks for visiting.


  1. If your bag doesn’t show up at baggage claim, IMMEDIATELY notify the baggage manager, and find the LEO that is normally in the baggage handling area, tell him/her and suddenly the baggage person gets REAL busy!

    • Good advice. Although I will say that the one time that I saw a LEO in the baggage office, he was more interested in flirting with the pretty young woman at the counter. Who, when I picked up my gun case told me that she’d love to learn to shoot. If I were 30 years younger… 😉

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