Flying Out of NYC, Gun Owners? Not So Fast. The Locals Want To Bust You and Steal Your Firearms.

Gun lock boxesTSAThe tale of a 65-year-old engineer, flying home to Alabama through LaGuardia Airport, and then dragged off in handcuffs after following all of the Transportation Security Administration's extensive rules for getting his .22 pistol from Point A to Point B, features in an Associated Press story.

As it turns out, Mike Connolly was arrested simply because he owned a firearm and was within the grasp of New York City authorities. City officials used the opportunity to mug him and steal his gun.

From Jake Pearson at Associated Press:

Mike Connolly thought he was doing everything by the book after a vacation last fall when he packed his handgun for the flight home from New York’s LaGuardia Airport.

Following Transportation Security Administration guidelines, the 65-year-old Alabama engineer locked his unloaded Ruger .22 in a hard-sided container, put it in a checked bag, handed it to the ticket agent and told the agent the weapon was inside.

That’s when he was slapped with handcuffs, arrested on a felony weapons possession charge and hauled off to jail.

Such incidents—travelers passing through New York City with locked, unloaded firearms and being arrested just because—are sufficiently common that at least one Queens Attorney maintains a page on his website devoted to his expertise in such matters. According to Martin Kane:

If you have been arrested for possession of a firearm or other weapon at JFK or LaGuardia airports in Queens County, NY, you probably share several traits with almost all of my airport gun arrest clients:

1) You are a law-abiding citizen who is careful to follow the law.

2) You recognize the responsibilities of gun ownership and are careful to handle, store, and transport your handgun in the safest way possible.

3) When you flew to New York, you carefully checked with both your airline and the TSA as to whether it was legal to transport your firearm in your luggage. You also learned and followed the strict requirements such as unloading and segregating ammunition, using a TSA approved lockbox, and submitting a TSA Declaration form.

The Associated Press agrees, saying of the 25 travelers arrested at New York City airports last year, "They were hardly nefarious gun runners. Most were otherwise law-abiding gun-owners who mistakenly thought they had appropriately packed their heat for travel."

For their troubles, if they don't fight, the "offenders" get their charges reduced to non-criminal violations with hundreds of dollars in fines—and city officials steal their guns. That's in addition to the time the travelers spent in jail for trying to do things by the rules.

If they fight, they face felony charges.

Why has New York City become such a trap for gun owners who are trying to follow the rules to get out of the place? Writes Kane, "The short answer is that New York has the toughest gun control laws in the world and does not recognize the legitimacy of any out of state licenses as conveying any rights in New York. To make matters worse, our current mayor has made gun law enforcement a signature issue and accordingly, the Queens District Attorney has set up a separate bureau headed by a high ranking official just for gun cases."

Queens Executive District Attorney Robert J. Masters, who sounds like quite the jerk, puts the blame on the arrestees. "There is, frankly, an element of irresponsibility. They’ve traveled. They realize that licenses are different around the country."

Remember, these travelers were trying to get out of New York City, so there's no pretense of keeping residents safe from (**gasp**) unloaded, locked guns. So licenses may be "different," but this is just a game of gotcha.

Update: And another New York attorney addresses gun-owning travelers busted at airports, and another, and another.

In 2012, the Guns & Patriots newsletter at Human Events called these incidents "shakedowns," noting that travelers who call airlines or LaGuardia to check on legal processes for transporting firearms are given no warning of special restrictions beyond TSA rules at all. They just face arrest once within the grasp of New York City officials.

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  • John||

    These cases have been happening for years. Cases like this is why we have a federal government. What should happen is DOJ should be bringing federal charges against every cop and DA who ever does this for violating federally protected civil rights. The Feds should also be hauling New York into court and asking for inductive relief against the enforcement of these statutes.

    I know, even thinking the corrupt DOJ would ever do such a thing is laughable. But that is how it is supposed to work. If the Feds don't sue, the only way to get these laws before a court is for some poor bastard to go, get convicted, get thrown in prison and wait there for a couple of years until the federal courts bitch slap the state of New York.

  • Auric Demonocles||

    John, don't be silly. The federal government exists to make sure that you don't grow too much wheat for yourself in your backyard and to see who you've been texting. It's not there to deal with issues that arise with people moving between states.

  • John||

    + 1 Wickard v. Filburn.

  • Ted S.||

    The next time they get hit by a hurricane, they're not a disaster area and not getting any federal assistance.

  • Plàya Manhattan.||

    I thought there was some sort of "safe passage" law.

  • sarcasmic||

    Google is cool.

    http://www.law360.com/articles.....e-firearms

    In a precedential decision, the three-judge panel unanimously held that the Firearms Owner Protection Act’s “safe passage provision” — a law allowing people to pass from state to state with their firearms — only protected people traveling by “vehicle,” including car, train and plane. FOPA’s protections do not apply when a person walks through an airport terminal to his flight, the court stated.
  • Plàya Manhattan.||

    That was very sarcasmic of you. I was driving when I posted that.

  • sarcasmic||

    I was driving when I posted that.

    That was very illegal of you.

  • Cdr Lytton||

    First amendment only applies to a physical printing press.

    Freedom of travel doesn't protect all means of travel from being declared a privilege and being denied at will.

    Navigable waters refers only to the act of navigating.

    Interstate commerce means intrastate non-commerce.

  • ||

    And we have no idea what "Shall not be infringed." means.

  • DrAwkward||

    +a million for "intrastate non-commerce". It took obammycare to show us how completely the 10th amendment is but a super-highlarious joke.

  • croaker||

    That should be on it's way to SCOTUS.

  • paranoid android||

    I wonder what the responses would be like if this story was reported at the Huffington Post or Gawker (stop laughing, it's a hypothetical).

    I'm guessing the rationalization goes something like, "Well it's a shame this seemingly-decent guy got screwed but ignorance of the law is no excuse and it's a small price to pay since New York is just trying to keep its residents safe from all the nuts and bitter clingers out there."

  • Grand Moff Serious Man||

    They would never refer to the gun owner as "seemingly-decent".

    The fact that he owns a gun and travels with it is proof that he's a paranoid gun nut with a small penis that's been brainwashed by the NRA.

  • Auric Demonocles||

    Not true. He could also be a terrorist or gangster.

  • Death Rock and Skull||

    Those are protected classes.

  • Restoras||

    They would also never say it's a shame.

  • The Laconic Marc F Cheney||

    You pass the progressive Turing test.

  • LarryA||

    I'm guessing the rationalization goes something like, "Well it's a shame this seemingly-decent guy got screwed but ignorance of the law is no excuse and it's a small price to pay since New York is just trying to keep its residents safe from all the nuts and bitter clingers out there."

    HuffPo? More likely it would be, "OMG GUNZ OMG Lock 'em up!!! FYTW!"

  • Tamfang||

    Don't be silly, LarryA. They don't need to say "FYTW" when they can say "It's your own fault for not getting with the program."

  • Cdr Lytton||

    Even the usual professional courtesy comes up short in NY state. Two of the major LEOSA cases came about from arresting out of state or non-NY employed peace officers (I hate the term as used, but LEOSA covers more than just cops. And aside from LEOSA being totally BS itself).

  • Restoras||

    Oh, and if you are driving anywhere that takes you through any of the boroughs, and they catch you with a firearm licensed in another county, you will go to jail for that too.

  • Trials and Trippelations||

    I'm already worried that when I move from CA to NH this summer that I will get pulled over and my dog will bark like crazy (he doesn't like being approached by strangers while in the car)and the officer will just shoot him.
    Now I have to worry about not being granted safe passage for my revolver and rifle

  • Restoras||

    Just don't go through any of the boroughs. You can take I-90, but I don't know how King George's Massachusetts Bay Colony will like that if you get pulled over.

    As stupid as it sounds, I'd take I-90 East to I-87 North through NY (it's very rural you should be fine) and then wind you way through VT to NH.

    Don't get within 100 miles of NYC. The entire area is pure poison. Boston too, unless you are going to Fenway (just don't bring your gun or anything NY Yankee related...)

  • Ted S.||

    81 to 84 to 87 to Vermont.

  • LarryA||

    Specifically avoid Chicago, NYC, D.C., New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Maryland.

  • Tamfang||

    What about the rest of Illinois?

  • Trials and Trippelations||

    I appreciate the advice

  • Zeb||

    Well as long as you keep the guns appropriately stowed in the car, the safe passage law should apply. Just don't stop any longer than absolutely necessary in MA or NY. The thing about the airport is that you have to tell them that you have the gun to take it on the plane. And you have to move it from one vehicle to another.

  • croaker||

    Not in the People's Republic of New Jersey it doesn't.

  • Cyto||

  • Dr No||

    And disable your trunk release lever. If it takes a key to open it, it takes a warrant to open it. My new WRX actually has a lock for the trunk release lever. Awesome, but I'm not sure that's what they had in mind.

  • Tim||

    Mr. Staypuft was right.

  • ||

    I have to explain this all the time to my fiancee, who does not share my seething hatred of New York. I don't care how much art or culture or metropolitan vitality you have, if you systematically trample people's essential rights you should die by garotte.

  • prolefeed||

    Yeah, on my recent 11,000 mile road trip, we drove right around NYC without going into the city, to the extreme disappoint of my GF. She couldn't fathom why I wouldn't want to drive in massive rain and heavy traffic into that damned city to rent a room for about $300 a night.

  • Drake||

    I live 50 miles from there and NEVER go to NYC. Fuck them.

  • JD the elder||

    "if you systematically trample people's essential rights you should die by garotte."

    So, pretty much everywhere in the US, then? (Actually, pretty much everywhere in the world.)

  • Mickey Rat||

    "Such strict enforcement of one of the nation’s toughest gun laws is intended to send a message not to bring firearms to New York in the first place, and that message may be getting through. Officials say increased awareness may be part of the reason such arrests at the city’s airports were down by more than half in 2013 from a high of 51 in 2006."

    It could be sending a message never, ever go to New York. How's your economy doing, again?

  • UnCivilServant||

    so poorly that dollar stores are going bankrupt.

  • SugarFree||

    We had a commenter run afoul of these laws a few years ago, but I can't shake his name loose. IIRC, he was military and was transporting his weapon back to an active theater and was forced to lay-over in NYC.

  • SugarFree||

    All I had to was admit I couldn't remember...

    I messed up the details. Derp.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    If I read the ATF page correctly, it is legal to ship your firearm(s) to yourself without resorting to the intervention of an FFL.

    It introduces another class of risk, but might be a lesser of two evils scenario.

  • prolefeed||

    The gunowner failed the first rule of Gun Club -- never tell the government you have a gun.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    Following Transportation Security Administration guidelines, the 65-year-old Alabama engineer locked his unloaded Ruger .22 in a hard-sided container, put it in a checked bag, handed it to the ticket agent and told the agent the weapon was inside.

    That’s when he was slapped with handcuffs, arrested on a felony weapons possession charge and hauled off to jail.

    I think it's safe to assume the cops are being tipped off by the ticket agents. Do they get a bounty?

    Has the Port of New York and New Jersey made it illegal to "conceal" knowledge of this heinous crime, and made the agent an accessory to terrorism?

  • Cyto||

    The stories all seem to include variations on "I declared the weapon for inspection with the ticket agent, but she/he called over a local police officer and I was arrested instead."

  • Hopfiend||

    Somewhere Buck Owens is singing a tune...

  • Tejicano||

    This is a glaring example of why I will never agree to compromise on RKBA.

    FOPA was passed to cover this kind of situation and the Hughes amendment (banning further registration of full-auto NFA firearms) was attached as a compromise.

    Now, not only does a judge say that FOPA does not cover walking between one counter directly to another in the same airport but places like New Jersey act like FOPA does not apply to weapons which they don't like even if kosher in other places.

    Oh yeah, registration of new full-auto firearms is still banned.

    There is a guy in a New Jersey prison right now because the flight he was on got diverted to New Jersey due to weather - it wasn't on his original itinerary - and he put his hand on the case handle to do what he had been instructed to do by some authority there.

  • rabid penguin||

    This kind of shit is why I don't even try to take my car into D.C. God forbid I leave a loaded magazine or a spent shell casing in the car somewhere, and a traffic stop turns into a felony arrest.

    Still waiting for my David Gregory Pundit Permit to go through, so I at least have the option to plead misinformation. "But...but... the cops said it was OK!"

  • para_dimz||

    25 cases and narry one picked up by NRA? It is such low hanging fruit. What does that tell you? Another reason I do not belong to NRA. They operate behind the front. Way behind.

  • para_dimz||

    This is a classic case for litigation under the privilege and immunities clause. It's even better than a Second amendment defense because it uses the gay rights defense for a portable, recognizable marriage to prove a right for portable, legal transport of firearms. It is time to double up our defenses. The Ninth amendment can come into play some other day, too. We are leaving ammunition in our footlocker when we do not use all the rights we have.

  • crazydaisy||

    "Why has New York City become such a trap for gun owners who are trying to follow the rules to get out of the place? Writes Kane, "The short answer is that New York has the toughest gun control laws in the world and does not recognize the legitimacy of any out of state licenses as conveying any rights in New York. To make matters worse, our current mayor has made gun law enforcement a signature issue and accordingly, the Queens District Attorney has set up a separate bureau headed by a high ranking official just for gun cases."" -----So true!

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