“The trouble with fighting for human freedom is that one spends
most of one’s time defending scoundrels. For it is against scoundrels
that oppressive laws are first aimed, and oppression must be stopped at
the beginning if it is to be stopped at all.”
- HL Mencken
I went to board a flight at Tucson on Monday and checked in my guns in a secure case at the ticket counter like I always do. Usually I have to wait but they said they would page me if they needed me for anything. I proceeded to the TSA Security Theater festivities to have my bags and body violated and was stopped by an agent from the ticket counter and asked to return. The scan of my gun case indicated the weapon was loaded.
A loaded firearm has a round in the chamber by all gun community standards. We are addressing the legal definition here and not the assumption that all firearms are loaded for safety purposes. Search as I might, it was difficult to find a Federal definition for loaded but I did find this:
As typical legalese, this definition isn’t all that clear. Luckily, in 1996 the California Appellate Court ruled on the interpretation of “loaded firearm” in People v. Clark, (1996) 45 Cal. App. 4th 1147, 1152. Mr. Clark was arrested for allegedly having a loaded shotgun because, even though there were no shells in the chamber, there were shells in a compartment in the stock of the firearm. The court held that “attached in any manner to” the firearm was intended to encompass a situation where a shell or cartridge might be attached to a firearm or “loaded” for firing by some unconventional method.
The court said: “Under the commonly understood meaning of the term “loaded,” a firearm is “loaded” when a shell or cartridge has been placed into a position from which it can be fired; the shotgun is not “loaded” if the shell or cartridge is stored elsewhere and not yet placed in a firing position.”
This certainly makes sense because imagine the difficulty of finding how a gun is loaded if the rounds are outside the firing chamber whether in a magazine, in someone’s pocket or at your house while you are in your car. There is no one definitive answer to the question as is the way in American jurisprudence. But People v. Clark (1996) is now considered case law even by CA criminal code so the round must be in the chamber for the weapon to be considered loaded.
You will find most training facilities are very specific about the command of load which means a round in the chamber. My weapon was not loaded by any conventional definition. There was a loaded magazine in the well but no round in the chamber which apparently constitutes a loaded weapon in hoplophobic circles. I have traveled the gun in this configuration dozens of times. The TSA clearly state no loaded weapons and I abided by the accepted 1996 CA Appellate Court ruling. A Glock has three safety features in it that prevent it from firing unless the trigger is pressed. With no round in the chamber in a locked gun case, it is not possible for the firing pin to fire a round and therefore the weapon was safe in addition to the presence of other rounds in magazines secured in magazine carriers in the case with the gun per the TSA’s own regulations. The simplest fix is to clearly state no magazines in the weapon for travel instead of this bureaucratic doublespeak that is unclear and silly. This being modern America, the Tucson Airport police were called to file a report on a “loaded” weapon in a case.
They were very cordial, and in fact, seemed a bit embarrassed to be called for such a mundane and obtuse non-violation. They even pointed out it was not even actionable in the state of Arizona. The police then removed the magazine, placed it in the case and ensured no round was in the chamber. Two TSA drones came with the cop because “they were not pleased” a loaded firearm was in the case. I tried to explain the firearm was in an unloaded condition but it appeared I might as well be explaining quantum mechanics to a house cat. I had recently watched Idiocracy yet again and it appeared to be casting call for the movie. No comprehension appeared and regulations were regulations. Much like stop signs in America, the regulation was birthed in ignorance, served no explicit purpose for safety. It defied the common sense usage and lexicon of guns across the fruited plain.