It is safer to travel with guns than flutes in the US

I didn’t want to include this in the post on what happened to Boujemaa Razgui because I thought it would distract from the tragedy. However, I just had to share this.

While perusing the comments on the Slashdot article on the incident, I stumbled on an interesting traveller’s tip about how to avoid this problem… that is horrifying in its implications.

Here’s the gist of it: Mr. Razgui’s ney flutes may have been spared destruction… if only Razgui had packed a gun in the case with them.


No, really.

You see, apparently, traveling with firearms in checked baggage is not only easy and relatively hassle-free, but it also results in very strong security due to the wording of federal laws. According to US federal law, bags containing firearms mustmust… be locked securely, and cannot be inspected or opened without you present and observing.

So while his neys may have been a threat to American security that had to be seized and destroyed without his knowledge or consent, what Mr. Razgui could have done was pack an unloaded firearm in his ney case – with no ammunition (though it is possible to travel with ammunition) – lock it securely, declare when checking his bags that there was a firearm inside… and then – assuming officials actually followed US federal law – arrived at home to find his neys in his bag where they should have been, untouched by the barbarian hands of customs Gestapo.

Is this freaking you out? Your baggage is treated with more respect if there is a gun inside it than if there are precious, irreplaceable musical instruments or cultural artifacts (or even technological devices or anything else).

Got a problem with guns? Not an issue! You see the law applies to anything gun-like, even if it is not a lethal weapon. That means you can pack a starter pistol or a flare gun (again, unloaded, of course).

In fact, the Slashdot discussion pointed out that you can do with just gun parts. In other words, you don’t need to pack a whole, live gun, or even a starter’s pistol or flare gun. You can just pack a trigger. Literally. A trigger. Or a pistol grip. Or sights. Any part of a gun without a serial number on it. The only parts of a gun that are actually controlled are the barrel and the receiver.

There is actually a detailed guide on how to do this, and even videos.

I’m not suggesting that anyone actually try this. Indeed, it is a special flavour of idiot that uncritically takes legal advice from a Slashdot discussion. And while it may work domestically within the US – that is, when just dealing with the TSA – it may not work when you’re travelling into or out of the country – that is, when you’re dealing with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection. And of course, all this assumes the officials and airline employees actually know the rules and actually follow them – good luck with that. Even then, theft and loss can still sometimes happen. But if you’re seriously interested in trying it, you can check the laws yourself.

The reason I’m pointing this out is to highlight that it is possible to have your possessions secure and free from manhandling by thugs without your presence when you travel by air if they’re guns… but not if they’re works of art, or other precious possessions. An artist had his livelihood – musical instruments he crafted himself – surreptitiously stolen from him and destroyed as plant offal by anonymous jackbooted barbarians… but if he’d put a dissociated trigger or recoil spring in the bag, those neys could have been secure and untouched. There are your priorities, America. Reflect on that.

CC BY-SA 4.0
It is safer to travel with guns than flutes in the US by Indi in the Wired is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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