Preparing for a trip is one of the most important parts of vacation planning, and people who want to bring firearms should be ready for the rules and regulations that come with taking to the skies with a gun.
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) allows airline passengers in the United States to carry unloaded firearms in a closed, hard-sided container as checked baggage only, but travelers must declare guns and ammunition on board airline when they check their bag at the ticket counter. .
The container must completely secure the firearm from access. Only the passenger must retain the key or combination in the lock unless TSA personnel require the key to open the firearm container to ensure compliance with regulations.
Officials also recommend that travelers understand and obey laws regarding the possession of firearms as they vary by local, state and international governments.
“Bringing a firearm into a TSA security checkpoint is an entirely avoidable mistake,” said TSA Regional Spokesman Mark Howell. “We ask passengers to thoroughly search their personal belongings before coming to the airport to avoid civil penalties and possible citations or arrests by local law enforcement.”
For those planning to fly internationally with a firearm in checked baggage, please check the US Customs and Border Protection website for information and requirements prior to travel.
Firearm parts, magazines, clips, bolts, firing pins and replica firearms are prohibited in carry-on baggage, but may be carried in checked baggage. Rifle cases are allowed in carry-on and checked baggage.
For clarity, TSA officials said that bringing an unloaded firearm with accessible ammunition into the checkpoint carries the same civil penalty as carrying a loaded gun through security.
“TSA has no concerns about passengers taking a firearm with them when they travel as long as it is properly packaged and declared to the airline and left at the ticket counter,” Howell continued.
Ammunition also involves some protocol, as it can be carried in checked baggage but is prohibited from carry-on baggage. Whether loaded or empty, firearm magazines and clips must be securely boxed or contained in a hard-sided box containing an unloaded firearm.
Small arms ammunition (up to .75 caliber and shotgun shells of any caliber) must be packed in a string, wood, plastic or metal case designed to carry ammunition and declared to the airline. Each carrier may vary in ammunition quantity limits, so it is advisable to call the airline before arriving at the airport.
The TSA website also listed several items that would not be allowed in checked or carry-on luggage, including firearms, flares, lighters, gunpowder and rocket launchers.
Last year, TSA officers discovered 5,972 firearms in passengers or their carry-on bags at checkpoints across the country, a 35 percent increase from 2019. The agency also reports that 86 percent of those firearms were loaded.
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