Flying with Firearms — How to Do It Legally
If you’re planning to take your gun with you on your next trip, there are several things that you should know — including that missteps could land you in prison.
One former Marine found out the hard way: Ryan Jerome was arrested in September 2011 at the Empire State Building after he brought a legally-licensed handgun with him to New York from Indiana. Jerome had reportedly approached security guards in order to check the gun in, but instead they arrested him, and he faced prison time for a felony.
Research State Laws Thoroughly
Jerome was not the first — and will not likely be the last — visitor to New York who got nailed for carrying a gun licensed in another state. In December, a Tennessee nurse was busted for trying to check in a gun at the National September 11 Memorial; and a Tea Party leader was arrested at LaGuardia Airport after handing over a locked gun box to his airline’s ticketing agent.
Jerome’s story ended in March when he plead to a misdemeanor charge and was sentenced to community service and a $1,000 fine — an expensive trip to New York for the West Bend, Ind., man.
“The laws of each state still apply when you’re traveling with a firearm,” notes Guy A. Relford, a Carmel, Ind., lawyer who practices Second Amendment law, who points to Jerome’s story as a warning.
“So if you cannot legally carry a handgun in another state, you will be breaking the law in that state as soon as you claim your baggage or try to check it for a return flight if there’s a gun in that baggage,” he says.
So first, know the laws where you’re flying: Some states may have “reciprocity” for your carry license, but not all do. A nifty online map tool from the USA Carry blog allows you to choose your issuing state and see which other states would recognize your license.
TSA Laundry List
There are several layers of regulations you should be aware of should you decide you can take your gun with you. On the federal level, the Transportation Security Administration has a long list of strict rules regarding how you may fly with your gun.
TSA rules require you to, among other things, pack your gun in a locked hard-sided container, declare it to the airline when you check in and make sure the gun is unloaded, of course.
As for ammunition, you may have to pack it separately in special boxes. Ammo smaller than .75 caliber for rifles or pistols, and shotgun shells of any gauge can legally be packed in the same case as the gun, according to the TSA.
Airports Can Vary
In addition to state laws noted already, each airport may also have its own restrictions, says Relford. While Indiana, for instance, does not allow its airport authority to regulate firearms, state laws can prohibit carrying guns beyond secured areas of the airport.
Be sure to give yourself extra time at the airport to go through an extra round of security with the gun at the ticketing counter. Some airports will simply x-ray the case in front of you; others may take it from you and even ask for your key in order to unlock it.
And never try to carry a gun onto a plane — unless you’re a federal air marshal, of course. “Both state and federal law prohibit trying to carry a firearm onto a plane or have a firearm placed on a plane,” warns Relford.
Have you flown with a licensed gun? Share your experience with other readers below.