Don’t wing it when flying with guns
Concealed carriers may face turbulence when flying with guns.
TSA guidelines, state laws, stringent U.S. codes and varying airport laws require those traveling with guns to adhere to multiple regulations while flying and checking into a flight.
Follow TSA guidelines for guns on airplanes
At times it may feel like administrators have their heads in the clouds, but TSA agents are only attempting to keep passengers safe in the sky by regulating guns on airplanes.
It goes without saying that there are local, state and international laws regarding how, when and for what reason to carry a firearm. TSA recommends those should be at the forefront when traveling domestically or abroad.
Regardless of whether or not the concealed or open carrier agrees with TSA guidelines for transporting firearms on airplanes, the law-abiding citizen must adhere to them.
According to the TSA, those traveling with guns should declare each and every firearm as checked baggage. Each firearm is required to be unloaded and locked in a hard-sided container without giving up the key or combination. Additionally, the gun owner needs to speak with their airline about potential fees and limitations.
For reference, a firearm, according to U.S. Code Title 18 Part I Chapter 44, is defined as “(A) any weapon (including a starter gun) which will or is designed to or may readily be converted to expel a projectile by the action of an explosive; (B) the frame or receiver of any such weapon; (C) any firearm muffler or firearm silencer; or (D) any destructive device. Such term does not include an antique firearm.”
Under the same U.S. Code, ammunition “means ammunition or cartridge cases, primers, bullets or propellent powder designed for use in any firearm.”
Those transporting firearm parts — clips, firing pins, bolts and magazines — and replica, toy guns may not bring them as carry-on baggage, but they can be declared as checked baggage. Rifle scopes, on the other hand, may be transported as checked and carry-on luggage.
As far as ammunition is concerned, it is prohibited in carry-on, but may be brought as checked baggage. Unloaded or not, TSA requires magazines and clips to be securely boxed or in a hard-sided case with their unloaded firearm.
According to the TSA, shotgun shells of any gauge and small arms ammunition at or below .75 caliber may be transported in the same case the firearm is in.
Each individual violation may result in criminal prosecution and civil penalties up to $11,000.
Law enforcement officers transporting firearms on a plane are subject to different procedures
TSA makes a distinction for law enforcement officers transporting firearms on a plane, but doing so is regulated and the LEOs must provide reason to do so.
According to TSA guidelines, the LEO, despite being on official travel or not, must be armed according to agency policies and standards, and the weapon must be authorized by their employer in connection with their assigned duties.
They must be employed federally or as a direct government agency employee at a full-time municipal, county, state, tribal or territorial law enforcement organization fully funded by tax dollars.
The LEO must also be sworn and commissioned to enforce criminal or immigration laws. They must additionally complete the TSA Law Enforcement Officer Flying Armed Training Course.
TSA guidelines dictate the operational need for the firearm. One of the following must be met.
The LEO must be actively operating under protective duty on a principal or advance team, or on “travel required to be prepared to engage in a protective function.”
They must be escorting or traveling with a prisoner in custody, or returning on a round trip ticket from delivering or picking up the prisoner.
They are on official travel and must report armed at the landing location, immediately prepared for duty.
They are on a dangerous surveillance operation.
According to TSA guidelines, there are situations that do not meet the threshold for carrying weapons onboard, which are as follows.
If they are a retired, contract, reserve, auxiliary or annuitant law enforcement personnel.
If they have not been granted arrest authority or are barred to governmental facilities.
If their organization is not fully tax funded.
If the location they’re visiting is not connected to operational or enforcement-related duties.
Additionally, if the LEO is traveling armed, they must submit a National Law Enforcement Telecommunications System message at least 24 hours in advance.
Personal conduct matters when flying with guns
Be up front, respectful and educate others when at an airport and intending to fly with guns. A rude attitude can result in misjudged perception of the gun owner as a potential threat.
According to the concealed carry training organization Permit to Carry, the lawful gun owner should remain calm when checking firearms at an airport and to dress appropriately (not in tactical gear or camouflage). Check any bags for loose ammunition or firearms parts prior to checking into a flight.
According the TSA, even if an item is usually permitted to be transported, it could be subject to additional screening. It’s up to the TSA to make a decision on what does and does not end up on a plane. If the item triggers an alarm during the screening process, looks to be tampered with or poses any sort of security concern, TSA agents have the right to deny its presence on the plane.