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Should You Pack A Gun To Make Sure the TSA Takes Care Of Your Baggage?

March 1, 2010 at 3:33 PM | by | ()

The Internet works in strange and wonderful ways. In 2006, Bill Schneier posted a travel hack on his security blog, musing that photographers who check expensive camera lenses can put empty guns or starter pistols in their luggage to secure their equipment. Since TSA classifies them as firearms they trigger a bevy of special screenings and tracking. The trick was picked up last January by productivity uber-blog Lifehacker, and from there spread across the blogosphere and even into legacy media. Over the weekend it landed in our Twitter inbox with a "verify this" request, and here we are.

Does this work? Absolutely. When you check luggage at the counter you're asked to declare if you have a firearm. If you indicate that you do, a TSA agent is called over to flag your baggage, hand-screen it, and confirm that the firearm is packed correctly. That means, minimally: unloaded, kept in a separate hard case, and secured by an unbreakable lock. The upshot is two-fold. Flagged luggage is extra-tracked to the point where Schneier says the risk of loss is "virtually zero." In the meantime, since your bags have already been screened, you're entitled to lock them and TSA has to contact you before breaking the locks.

So can you do this? Sure. Should you do it? Highly questionable...

First of all, how often do you really check anything that justifies the extra hassle? It takes precious minutes to lock and unlock each case, to fully inspect every bag, and so on. The hack was designed for photographers who travel with expensive equipment that they need immediately. Most luggage meets neither of those requirements. Even in an era of revenue-churning extra fees, many people still check clothes because they don't want to bother wheeling them from flight to flight. There's a difference between that and huge $10,000 lenses.

Besides, if everyone pulled this stunt it would grind airports down to a halt. So unless you actually are a photographer, let's all agree that this idea never happened. Besides—and here's the punchline—there are already much better ways to ship your luggage ahead via FedEx or UPS. And those ways don't require voluntarily dealing with extra TSA agents, which seems like a dicey proposition to us.

[Photo: Wiki Commons]

Related Stories:
· Pack a Gun to Protect Valuables from Airline Theft or Loss [Lifehacker]
· Lost Luggage [Jaunted]
· Luggage [Jaunted]

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