||January 22, 2015
||The Highs and Lows of Airline Travel with a Firearm
Last year, over 1,800 guns were confiscated in airports across the
country by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), the
majority of them loaded and in travelers� carry-on luggage. Despite many
of these cases being accidental, there are potentially devastating
consequences that accompany being found with a handgun in your carry-on
luggage, or a firearm that has not been properly processed in accordance
with TSA policies and federal, state, and local law. We hope that this
article will give you the knowledge necessary to avoid the unnecessary
hardship of being caught at the airport with a prohibited weapon.
The TSA has a number of rules which must be followed in order to carry a
firearm and/or ammunition aboard a commercial airliner or in the
�sterile area� of an airport (the portion of an airport that provides
passengers access to boarding aircraft and is controlled with metal
detectors and x-ray machines by the TSA). These rules follow federal
statutory law, and complying with them will prevent you from violating
federal laws which carry harsh penalties.
The TSA uses a fairly broad characterization, taken from federal law, of
what constitutes a firearm. 18 U.S.C. � 921(a)(3) states that a firearm
is �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, the frame or receiver of any such weapon, any firearm muffler
or firearm silencer, or any destructive device.� Thus, if you want to
travel with a starter gun, any pistol/rifle/shotgun, silencer, or flare
gun, you will need to follow all TSA policies regarding firearms. Other
weapons similar to, but not classified as firearms, such as BB guns,
compressed air guns, and pellet guns, may be included in checked baggage
in accordance with rules governing their transportation.
Any and all firearms must be unloaded, stored in a locked, hard-sided
container, and in checked baggage. The TSA uses the definition of
�loaded firearm� from federal regulation 49 C.F.R. 1540.5: �a firearm
that has a live round of ammunition, or any component thereof, in the
chamber or cylinder or in a magazine inserted in the firearm.� It should
be mentioned, however, that it is wise to check the laws of your
destination state, as that state may use a different definition of
�loaded firearm� than your home state. For example, under New York Penal
Law � 265.00, a �loaded firearm� is a firearm that is possessed by a
person who, at the same time, possesses a quantity of ammunition which
may be used to discharge a firearm. Therefore, if you travel to a state
with more restrictive laws on firearms possession, be sure that
beforehand, you have packed so that you will not be violating that
state�s laws when you arrive.
The TSA allows plastic or metal hard-sided cases, as long as the case
completely secures the firearm from being accessed (e.g. it cannot be
easily pulled apart), and you are the only person who has the key or
combination to the lock, though TSA-approved locks are acceptable on
checked firearms and ammunition. No tag is required on the outside of
the case(s), and in fact, federal statute 18 U.S.C. 922(e) prohibits an
airline from requiring any label or tag on your checked luggage
indicating that a firearm is inside. Any magazines or clips, whether
loaded or empty, must be securely boxed or included within the
No firearms, firearms parts (e.g. frames, receivers, etc.), or
ammunition are allowed in carry-on baggage; these must be declared and
checked with the airline. Different airlines and airports have varying
policies on how they want you to declare your firearms and/or
ammunition, but generally, these must be declared orally or in writing
according to the airline carrier�s instructions when you check-in with
the ticket counter. Some airlines might have you fill out an �unloaded
firearms declaration� tag to be included within the locked, hard-sided
case containing the firearm(s) or ammunition. Additionally, it is a good
idea to ask about any limitations or fees that might apply. If your
firearm(s) are not properly declared (or packaged), the TSA will give
the checked bag to law enforcement for resolution with the airline. This
may lead to a delay that could prevent you from making your flight, so
it is very important to properly declare all firearm(s) and ammunition
with the airline.
The TSA requires that all small arms ammunition be checked-in in
addition to firearms. All ammunition must be securely packed in fiber
(e.g. cardboard), wood, or metal boxes, or in other packaging
specifically designed to carry small amounts of ammunition. It can also
be loaded into magazines that are securely boxed or placed in the
hard-sided, locked container holding the firearm. Additionally,
airlines may have their own preferences as to how they want ammunition
packaged and the amount you may have in checked baggage. For example,
American Airlines prefers that all ammunition be in its original
packaging from the manufacturer, and will accept no more than 11 pounds
of ammunition per person. Ammunition containing explosive or incendiary
projectiles may not be accepted by a particular airline, as well as
loose ammunition, magazines, or clips. Gunpowder and black powder are
prohibited from commercial flights by the TSA. Before bringing
ammunition to the airport, check with the airline for guidance on how it
should be packed.
Even for concealed handgun license or permit holders, carrying a
concealed handgun onto an aircraft or in a sterile area is a very
serious crime! Several federal statutes make it illegal to carry a
handgun, either concealed or unconcealed onto an aircraft or in a
sterile area (14 C.F.R. � 135.119, 49 C.F.R. � 1544.201(d), 49 C.F.R. �
1540.111). Being on, or attempting to get on an aircraft while carrying a
concealed handgun carries with it a possible prison sentence of up to
10 years and/or a fine of up to $250,000! Also, attempting to place or
having placed a loaded firearm in property that is inaccessible
to passengers in flight (e.g. having a loaded handgun in your checked
baggage), carries with it a potential 10 year prison sentence and
$250,000 fine. In addition to potential criminal penalties, 49 U.S.C. �
46303 provides that anyone who is on or attempts to board an aircraft
intended for air transportation that has a concealed handgun or other
firearm that would be accessible in flight, is liable to the U.S.
Government for a civil penalty of up to $10,000 for each violation.
This civil penalty is usually imposed regardless of whether or not any
criminal prosecution is pursued.
All states have enacted laws that criminalize carrying an unsecured
firearm into the sterile area of an airport. Some states prohibit
bringing an unsecured firearm into any part of the airport terminal.
Generally, if a person is found to be at the airport screening area with
a firearm on their person or in their carry-on, the TSA will turn them
over to local law enforcement for arrest and prosecution under state
law. Be aware of your destination state�s laws; even if you comply with
all TSA declaration and packing policies, you may still be prosecuted
for an offense in another state that has more restrictive firearms
and/or ammunition policies than your home state. For example, last year a
North Dakota resident was arrested at La Guardia International Airport
while trying to return home on a flight, because she had ammunition in a
separate box, but in the same container as her handgun in checked
baggage. While this was in compliance with North Dakota law, she was
charged with a serious felony under New York law, which holds a much
more strict definition of what constitutes a �loaded firearm.�
The two most important things to do before traveling with your
firearm(s) and/or ammunition is: 1) to check with every airport you will
be flying through to verify what their firearms policies are, and 2) to
learn about the laws of the state you will be flying into, and
ultimately out of. If you have any questions about how you can ensure a
smooth and safe travel experience with your firearms and/or ammunition,
please don�t hesitate to call a Texas Law Shield program attorney. The
law is complicated, and we are here to help with any questions. However,
being caught with a firearm at the airport, whether intentional or
accidental is not a �use of a firearm� covered by the Texas Law Shield
We wish you safe travels and will update you on any changes in these laws that may impact your Second Amendment rights.
Planning on traveling outside the borders of Texas in
the near future? Make sure you go through our traveling checklist
- Read our Special Report on traveling released summer of 2014.
- Map out your route - get a list of states you plan on visiting.
- Call your independent firearms program
attorney to learn the laws of each state you plan on traveling through
and whether or not they share reciprocity.
- Make sure you have the Multi-State option
added on to your membership. To add Multi-State coverage, which includes
the same comprehensive legal coverage in all 50 states, please visit
your Member Portal or contact us at 877-448-6839 and we will be happy to help you.
Now we head back to events here in Texas where there
is continued discussion about the law of open carry and how Texans may
see this law change in the 2015 legislative session.
Tell us which of the following best describes your position and feelings on the issue:
- I believe all handguns should remain concealed: We don't need open carry in TX.
- I believe the unlicensed open carry of handguns is a constitutional right and should not be regulated in any form or fashion.
- I believe a person should be able to choose
open or concealed carry, but only with a license. Open or concealed
carry without a license on property under a person's control should be
- I don't agree with any of the options (share more thoughts below)
Just type, "1", "2", "3", or "4" in the comment field of our Facebook post to submit your vote!
If you don�t have a Facebook account, please feel free to email me directly with your response at email@example.com.
Vice President of Member Services
||Come Meet Your Firearms Program Attorneys
At Texas Law Shield a cornerstone of our program is
firearms legal education. We want all of our members and gun owners
everywhere to get educated and know their firearms rights.
We would like to invite you and your friends to join us
at an upcoming firearms law seminar or workshop! Come hear Texas Law
Shield independent program attorneys and firearms experts separate legal
fact from fiction and discuss legal topics every gun owner should know.
Make sure you understand your firearms rights and how to uphold them.
Find a seminar in your area and sign up today!
Austin � January 27
Round Rock � February 10
Brenham � February 11
DALLAS - FORT WORTH
Denton � January 22
Dallas � January 23
Argyle � January 24
Dallas � January 27
Burleson � January 28
Garland � January 28
Grand Prairie � January 29
Fort Worth - February 7
Fort Worth - February 8
North Richland Hills - February 11
Lewisville - February 14
Highland Village - February 16
Lewisville - February 17
Southlake - February 19
Conroe � January 25
Rosenberg � January 27
Spring � January 27
Misson - February 5
San Angelo � February 12
San Antonio � January 31
Converse - February 3
San Antonio - February 14
San Antonio - February 19
To view a complete list of seminars and workshops in your area, please go to www.GunLawSeminar.com. We hope to see you at one of our next events!
|Texas Law Shield, LLP
1020 Bay Area Blvd., Suite 220
Houston, TX 77058