When air travel involves transporting weapons

On January 6, Esteban Santiago’s flight landed in Fort Lauderdale. Like any other passenger on the plane, he retrieved his checked bags in the airport’s baggage claim area. That is where any comparison ends. After securing his luggage, he removed his checked firearm, loaded it, and went on a shooting spree that saw his fellow passenger scatter, literally running for their lives.

Five were killed. Six were wounded.

A Tragedy Creating Awareness While Requiring Answers

News coverage was immediate. As the initial shock began to wear off and more details began to emerge, many were asking the same question. In an era of tightened airport security, why was Santiago or anyone allowed to check in a gun as part of their baggage?

Prior to that tragic day, this obscure aspect of air travel was not cause for concern, according to airport security experts. Gun advocates claim that the practice is safe and Santiago’s rampage represents the exception, not the rule for gun owners.

What You Need To Know About The Transport Of Unloaded Guns

More known for what many consider invasive pat-downs in a post-9/11 era, the Transportation Security Administration does allow for the transport of unloaded guns with specific provisions:

  • Firearms are kept in a locked “hard-sided” container
  • Owners declare the firearms and any ammunition to airline representatives at check-in
  • Real, replica and toy guns are only to be transported in checked luggage, not carry-ons
  • Clips, firing pins and other firearm parts fall under the rules of transport as well

Various airlines have individual limitations in the carrying of firearms in checked bags. Destination cities with their own firearms regulations can lead to a gun owner facing charges of possessing the weapon without a permit while checking in for the flight home.

An event of this magnitude will always raise questions, if not demands for the TSA to tighten firearm regulations.

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