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My airport firearm experiences were interesting because I had to go through it three times, and every one was different.

At SLC, the Delta agent gave me the tag, checked the my gun was unloaded and the ammunition was in the original manufacturer's box, then asked me to lock the case with the signed tag inside. He then walked me over to the TSA, where the TSA agent had me unlock the case so he could check the gun and ammunition. Then he thoroughly hand-searched my bag. He said that was because it wasn't going to be x-rayed. After the search and the bomb-sniffer machine test, he wished me a good day and told me I could head up to the gate.

I had a connection in Cincinnati that was canceled due to the co-pilot's failure to show up, so Delta put me up in a hotel in Cinci for the night. That meant that I had to check my bag again in the morning. This time I was on American (Delta put me on American because their earliest flight wouldn't have gotten me to Madison in time for my meeting), and the process was quite a bit different.

The American agent didn't look at the gun, the ammo, the case or anything. She just slapped a tag on the counter and told me to lock it in the case with the gun. I did, then she took my bag, handed me a boarding pass and told me how to get to the gate. I was a little confused because according to the TSA web site you MUST be available to open your locked case for the TSA to inspect, and if you aren't they say your bag will not get on the plane. I sat at the gate expecting to be called back, but never was, so I boarded.

At that point I was certain that my bag wouldn't show up in Madison but, sure enough, there it was, gun inside, no TSA inspection sticker or card. It was never checked by anyone. Fine by me, but surprising.

On the flight home, the Delta agent in Madison was nice but quite confused. He put my bag and carry-on behind the counter and asked me to walk back to the TSA inspection point with him, bringing my gun along in its case. He took me through the door behind the counter and deep into the non-public area of the airport, where a couple of TSA guys were searching bags that they pulled off of a conveyor. They pointed out that they needed to search my whole bag, not just the gun case, so the Delta agent walked back up front to get my bag, leaving me to chat with the TSA guys. They were cool and we talked a little about carrying and how nice it was I lived in a state where I could get a CFP (WI has no concealed carry permit, does not honor anyone else's permit and frowns on open carry). While the agent was gone they glanced in my gun case and had me lock it. When the agent returned they briefly searched my bag, put my gun case in it and closed it up.

All in all, it was a very positive experience. Chatting with the Madison TSA guys was fun, and none of the airline agents gave my any trouble. It didn't even take much extra time for the check-in process. Really, the biggest hassle was checking at all -- I normally carry everything on.
 

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apollosmith said:
I've always wondered what might happen if this happened in Chicago or D.C. or someplace that has gun bans in place. It certainly wouldn't be difficult for them to find a reason to charge you with having an illegal gun, right? I know federal laws allow interstate transportation of guns, but some of these places don't seem to think that applies to them if you stay the night there.
Yeah. I would not take it if I thought there was a serious chance of having to collect my bag in one of those places. I actually DID end up connecting through Chicago (which wasn't on the original itinerary), and I thought about that but decided that since I was flying through there very early in the morning the chance of having to spend a night there was miniscule.

apollosmith said:
So, was it legal for you to even take your gun to WI?
Yes, although unless I wanted to OC and risk trouble with the police it was pretty much useless for self-defense. I took it out of the gun safe and kept it loaded while in my hotel room, but the rest of the time I had to keep it unloaded and locked in the car, in the gun safe. Doing that is legal under both Wisconsin law, and, of course, the Federal "Safe Passage" law.

When I found out how useless it was to have it in WI I almost decided not to take it. In the end I decided I wanted to test the waters and see exactly how transporting a firearm works. My wife is going to Florida with me soon, and I wanted to thoroughly understand the issues and process so she wouldn't have a reason to argue against taking it there. This trip was a good test case because I knew I'd have plenty of extra time both coming and going and I was traveling alone so there would be no one else to inconvenience if the gun stuff caused delays.
 
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