HOWTO Carry a gun onto an airplane

Wanna carry a gun onto an airplane? It's easy -- just get any government ID (the cards issued to part-time assistant harbor masters on Cape Cod will do) and then tell the TSA that you need a "flying while armed" form. Not only will they let you bring your gun onto the plane, they'll helpfully bring you into the cockpit (with your gun) and tell who who the undercover Sky Marshals are. That's just what forty-eight-year-old Stephen Grant of Rockland did (he didn't carry a gun on in the end). Don't worry, they've fixed it all now.

Oh, and please pretend that whole time that they were taking away your toothpaste and X-raying your shoes (for X-ray-invisible explosives!) that they weren't willing to allow anyone with a part-time assistant harbor master's badge carry a gun into the cockpit.

Grant denies lying. He once worked for a Coast Guard subcommittee, which is a division of Homeland Security. However, he is not an agent, officer or employee of Homeland Security and has never been authorized to represent himself as a DHS agent.

On the license to carry he obtained from the Rockland Police Department, Chief John Llewelyn notes, "He put down DHS and had a polo shirt with DHS embroidered on it."

Grant is charged with impersonating a federal agent and making false statements.

Man Accused Of Posing As Armed Federal Agent (via Schneier)


  1. Wow. Regardless of whether he was lying or not, and whether he finally went ahead with it in the end or not, the fact still stands that he would have been allowed to board a plane with a gun. Great.

    So, does it follow that now I can sneak my super sekrit assploding bottle o’ water onto the plane with impunity… as long as I fill out the proper forms, and am a member of the DHS?

  2. “If I can take over the cockpit with nail clippers, I can take over the cockpit without nail clippers.”

  3. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again

    Bruce Schneier is the BEST! I hope like heck Obama taps into this marvelous human as a resource/advisor

  4. Well, this makes me feel safer. While terrorists can get into the cockpit of a plane with a gun, and have the marshalls identified for them so they can target them first when they start shooting, they’ll have to lie to do it.

    As everyone knows, terrorists never lie, do they?

    Oh, and they’ll be arrested afterwards. Obviously a major deterrent to people who are willing to die for their distorted idea of Islam. “We’ll arrest the lump of shredded charcoal that will be your body after the crash! You’d better watch yourself!”

  5. I still don’t understand why terrorists are more obsessed with airplanes than buses, trains, shopping malls…

    And what about shooting at a low-flying plane with a bazooka or something from Queens? Or a nail bomb in the men’s room at the superbowl? Or the stuff they used on Japan? The cult gas? Wouldn’t that work in the NY subways just as easily?

    I don’t understand why we (try to) protect one system over all the others – and why, so far – we think terrorists are agreeing to an arms race over airport security but won’t develop mean tricks for other parts of the infrastructure?

  6. Thank goodness for people like Grant that works to find flaws in US Air security and makes the flaws public. He could have just as easily passed the info on to some anarchist website.

    The US government should reward people like this instead of condemning their actions.

  7. the man’s a patriot for pointing out the flaws in a useless system that has so far caught zero terrorists and prevented me from carrying shampoo.

  8. Takuan – so, “some anarchist website,” brings up a red flag when you see it. I’m not talking about websites for peaceful political dissension, I’m talking about sites that people like Timothy McVeigh would read.

    Yes I was shot in an arson fire by a loaded Glock .45 handgun. It was stored in a closet – the fire was set in the closet, the pistol overheated and the chambered round discharged, hitting me in the right upper abdomen.

  9. Ah, but we are safe because no ay-rabs would be able to get away with this and we all know that only ay-rabs pose a threat to us while flying.

  10. FUCK! Tom, that’s horrible. When did that happen?

    Why were you in an on-fire house? Are you a firefighter?

    Honestly, I hope someone got sent up the river for both the arson and the reckless endangerment of they way they stored that Glock. Probably two different someones.

  11. #11 Kayin – “…a useless system that has so far caught zero terrorists”

    You can’t know that’s true and its at the very least a deterrent. You do think some security measures should be taken, right?

  12. Xopher, yes I’m a paid professional Firefighter EMT – I fight fires, I save lives. It happened this year, Jan 2nd.

  13. #16
    Bert: “Hey, you’ve got a banana in your ear!”
    Ernie: “I know, I’m keeping the alligators away.”
    Bert: “But there aren’t any alligators on Sesame Street!”
    Ernie: “I know, it’s working!”

  14. Tom Hale: Firefighter EMT? Good on yer. Also useful, since you guys tend to know a lot of stuff. What level EMT are you?

    In re knowing how many terrorists have been caught: Given how paltry some of the “would-be terrorists” were that Bush & Co. proudly announced they’d stopped, and the administration’s inadequate respect for professional intelligence work in general, I have to figure that if they had made more significant catches, we’d have heard about them.

    Also, people whom I’m inclined to trust, and who know a lot more about this subject than I do, have also indicated that Bush doesn’t have a secret stash of proven but unpublicized terrorist busts.

    It’s always hard to prove a negative, but this particular negative seems pretty solid.

  15. Why are terrorist (supposedly) obsessed with airplanes? They could kill more people or cause more economic damage if they blew up the San Francisco Bay Bridge or the Brooklyn Bridge. And those targets are not guarded AT ALL. Terrorists either dumb or not trying very hard.

  16. Hope you’re healing okay, Tom; gut wounds are bad, especially from such a heavy caliber.

    There’s no way to “properly” store loaded guns from a fire. Ammo will cook off anywhere it gets hot enough. If the owner had been carrying it, like any red-blooded American handgun owner should do, it wouldn’t have happened.

    I used to occasionally fly with a handgun and ammo packed in my luggage, notifying the airline’s resevations desk. Nothing was ever said.

    Those were the days.

  17. I went to a city garage fire once in 2003. While there, the loaded shotgun in the dump truck (WTF?) went off. Hit no one, fortunately, and the box of shells in the truck exploded too, rather harmlessly over about a 10 minute interval. It’s the law of unintended consequences in action. Who’d a thunk?

    Bad enough, but that night, one of my tasks was soaking the propane tanks at the back of the burning building. In the building, lawn chemicals, various fluids, plastics, fuels. Sharp things everywhere. All of it in the dark, except for what light the fire and the trucks provide.

    Firefighting sux! Anyone who does it deserves hearty thanks, and anyone who wants to do it has a screw loose!

  18. Seems to me he wanted to see if he could get away with it. This guy lives literally 4 miles from me. I suppose I could just go ask him.

  19. Tom Hale, as TNH said, good on yer. Thanks for doing that absolutely necessary and dangerous job on behalf of your fellow citizens.

    Did they catch the arsonist? Did the gun owner get hung out to dry for reckless endangerment?

    Buddy, even if the owner wasn’t carrying it, it should not have been stored loaded.

  20. @ rushkoff #8

    of course, (as you are suggesting) the next big terrorist outrage won’t be anything to do with planes or airports, it’ll come out of left field.

    Superbowl? Shuttle launch? New York’s water supply? High speed train in an urban area? Who the hell knows. That’s the whole point about terrorism, and the reason why there’s very little anyone can ever do to prevent it.

    What you have to do is ignore it, as far as possible, when it happens. Which, of course, is precisely the opposite of what the US did after the twin towers attack.

    Regarding the guy with the pass to carry a gun, and the invite into the cockpit – it’s OK. I doubt if he was brown, and he was probably a real nice ole boy, so obviously he wasn’t a terrorist. Anyone could’ve seen that!

  21. Coldspell @23, don’t be so sure about those bridges!

    I don’t know about the SF Bay Bridge, but the Brooklyn Bridge is pretty damn sturdy, with a lot of redundancy in its design. The vulnerable points are the cable anchor points, and those are patrolled by the cops. According to this NY Times article from 2003 (scroll down past the photo), cutting one of the main suspension cables would take about 36 hours of uninterrupted work, and you’d need to cut more than one to take the bridge down.

    Back in 2002, Iyman Faris, a would-be terrorist with mental problems, supposedly investigated for al Qaeda the possibility of taking down the Brooklyn Bridge, only to decide it wasn’t a plausible operation.

  22. Takuan:
    well, I’m SURE that there is a perfectly good explanation for this.

    They are a political agency. Actual security is not a primary function of the TSA.

    I still don’t understand why terrorists are more obsessed with airplanes than buses, trains, shopping malls…

    They’re not. We are. Reference Mumbai.

    “According to this NY Times article from 2003 (scroll down past the photo), cutting one of the main suspension cables would take about 36 hours of uninterrupted work, and you’d need to cut more than one to take the bridge down.”

    How long if you leave the Sawzall home and bring Thermite?

  23. How long if you leave the Sawzall home and bring Thermite?

    from the article – “Each of the four main suspension cables is more than 15 inches in diameter”

    from wikipedia “Thermite is not an explosive but instead operates by exposing a very small area of metal to extremely high temperatures. Intense heat focused on a small spot can be used to cut through metal or weld metal components together by melting a very thin film where the components meet.”

    So,… I’d say about 36 hours, as there is nothing -small- about a 15-inch cable, and thermite isn’t known for cutting through thick materials.

  24. a weekend and a few thousand dollars and just about anyone could come up with a plan to do something horrendous. Remember that if your plan is to bleed your enemy to death over time, all you need to do is keep them wasting money on phantoms.

  25. ok, so bringing down a bridge is pretty difficult. But what about bombs in underground tubes in SF BART or NYC Subway?

    Even if bombs would not disable those transportation systems, the economic fallout from people too paranoid to ride would be huge.

  26. just credible THREATS against trains etc.will do harm. One real bomb one day every year, 364 days of threats. But since Sept 11,2001, what has happened in the USA? Apart from billions spent keeping away elephants that have materialized once?

  27. Terrorist plans that would work pretty easily.

    Plan 1

    Step 1 – Get a job at the TSA.

    Step 2 – ‘Inspect Plane for Safety’ –

    Step 3 – Watch people die

    Plan 2

    Step 1 – Get job at random Government agency with a badge.

    Step 2 – Fill out some forms, take gun on board flight.

    Step 3 – Become friendly with staff, get invited into cockpit (the ones with the really great reinforced doors to make sure none of those armed marshals can get you!)

    Step 4 – Lock door behind you. Shoot pilots dead. Fly plane into whatever.

    Plan 3

    Step 1 – Get large group of people to purchase plane tickets.

    Step 2 – Buy 1 glass bottle each of duty free alcohol once you’ve passed security.

    Step 3 – One at a time sneak said duty free alcohol into toilets inside jumper or equivalent. In the toilets, empty booze into toilet. Wrap jumper around empty bottle. Break the bottle on the hardest surface in the toilet (jumper will dampen sound). Check broken bottle contains at least one good sharp shard that can be held fairly easily. If the neck has broken too much to hold you can always cut a chuck of jumper off with the glass and wrap it around another sharp piece to act as a handle). Take the jumper back to your seat with broken glass hidden inside.

    Step 4 – Take over the plane the same way anyone with any sharp would (nail scissors ban stupid?)

    Plan 4

    Step 1 – Run for President

    Step 2 – Win Election

    Step 3 – Choose buddies for cabinet.

    Step 4 – Invade whatever country you feel like on pretence of whatever you feel like (suggestions include: axes of evil, weapons of mass destruction, spreading democracy, hates America).

    Step 5 – Profit massively whilst watching thousands die at the hands of your army.

  28. mmm..15″ cable… what about water tamped plastique in toroids wrapped around the cable at points away from the guards?

  29. OK, instead of a simple torus, a truncated cone with annulus and copper face plate opposite the water backing? To get an angled cut rather than a round pinch? Hasn’t anyone out there ever made a cable cutter?

  30. rushkoff:
    I still don’t understand why terrorists are more obsessed with airplanes than buses, trains, shopping malls…

    kenmce:They’re not. We are. Reference Mumbai.

    See also: Madrid train bombings in 2004 and London underground and bus bombings in 2007.

  31. congratulations TAKUAN. You have just been given a lovely new file all to yourself at several US government agencies!

  32. Cable is very resistant to cutting with heat. The filaments of the cable conduct the heat along the length and act as efficent radiators. While it is possible to cut a cable by getting it hot enough, it is a lot harder than a simple piece of metal of the same size.

    Plastique applies force perpendicular to the charge, compressing the cable and stretching it. This will cut the cable if enough force is applied, but it must overcome the strength of the whole cable.

    Shaped charges might work, but with the size of the cable you’d need to apply many charges in succession, and probably every charge would have fairly mixed results, given the dificulties of placement.

    The prefered method for cutting a cable usually applies a lot of force to one strand at a time in a direction perpendicular to the axis. A diamond saw is a good approach, and it will take forever.

    Risk Vs Reward, it is probably a waste of time. As a terrorist I’d target power substations or fiber optic trunk lines for service disruption. For longer term plans, with more resources, I’ve got a doozy involving crop blight. Beats a nuke any day.

    Terrorists are not stupid. No socity can guard every piece of infrastructure. To truly win the war, ignore the terrorists. Good old fassioned police leg-work after the fact will deliver most of their network into the hands of the law.

    There have been no major terrorist attacks this year because there are no active cells.

  33. ummm… how about that underwater piling cutter? Sounds like a gun-type system that drives a cutter. Or is there a biological approach? An incurable “death of metal” organism?

    Truthfully though, the best way to bring down a major bridge is to bribe some politician to create a Bridge TSA. The resulting inefficiency would have the same effect as destroying the bridge.

    Either that or conspire to elect a has-been actor to the local governorship and wreck the bridge and all other infrastructures through gross fiscal mismanagement. Think about it: ever seen YOUR local Dear Leader photographed with bin Laden? Beards shave off you know.

  34. Meanwhile for the law abiding, you need to declare your firearm in advance, kept unloaded in your checked bag. Even if you have a concealed carry permit from your home state, you cannot carry in the “secure area” of an airport, even with said permit. If the threat level goes to “Red”, the whole friggin place is considered a “secure area” so you have to be mindful of the threat level when carrying and going to pick someone up at the airport. You can keep a weapon in your hotel room in most states, though you may be in violation of local law as you drive from the airport to the hotel in your rental car or cab, especially if your state’s concealed carry permit isn’t honored in the state you are visiting. Some states require a concealed carry permit even just to tote a pistol around in your car, though most states are ok with long guns sans permits in cars. In Texas until very recently you might be ok on the first day of your arrival (since you would be on an “traveling on an overnight trip”) but the day after, if you got caught driving around with a pistol, you could get busted. In NYC a target competition shooter was recently arrested at La Guardia after declaring his competition pistol and held for several hours (missing his flight, of course) before they finally realized he wasn’t actually breaking the law.

    And these are what people call ‘common sense’ gun laws.

    Ths s wht cll cmmn sns gn lw:

    ” wll rgltd (.. wll drlld/prfcnt-n-th-s-f-rms) mlt, bng ncssry t th scrty f fr stt, th rght f th ppl t kp nd br rms shll nt b nfrngd.”

    n f my fvrt t-shrts rds: “Th 2nd mndmnt: mrc’s rgnl Hmlnd Scrty”.

  35. A friend of mine’s brother in law works for the FBI and he was in line to get on a plane to a Vols game when the TSA agent searching his luggage found a nail trimmer. He was told that that was a prohibited item. He then opened his coat and said, “Well, you know, I have a gun too.” Once he explained that he was an FBI agent and showed his credentials, he was treated very well, bumped to first class even. The funny part is that they still wouldn’t let him bring on the nail clippers.

  36. Fuel air bombs are (approximatly) as powerful as the same weight of high explosives.

    The advantages are that you get half the weight for free, as the oxidizer is the air. The disadvantages are that the fuel and air must be mixed to the right proportions, otherwise it just burns. A tanker truck venting fuel vapor for 45 minutes is going to draw attention.

    The mass of fuel vapor in an empty tanker truck is pretty dismal. Certainly not enough to do the job. A better bet would be a van full of ANFOs, and while it would do considerable damage, causing the bridge to close and require a (very!) long and expensive investigation, (IMHO) it would not be powerful enough to sever the cable. If an organization had the resources to place a van of high explosives, there are better targets.

  37. Boiling Liquid Expanding Vapor Explosions do most of their damage with heat and fire, not by the concussive force. The best way to disable a bridge may be to ride under it and shoot a RPG or two at support structures.

    Or – send a herd of cats across the bridge. Do you recall the old urban legend that says cats walk with such a perfect pace that the repeated impacts of their little paws eventually will cause the bridge to collapse.

    When I was in the US Navy, we were told to break unison while marching across bridges in large groups. So to collapse a bridge, just gather 50 or so folks with a common goal and march across a bridge in perfect unison.

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