Gun in Your Bag at the Airport: Here's What You Need To Know
Did you know that there is a certain set of rules and guidelines for taking your gun on to an airplane? Oklahoma may have constitutional carry, but that does NOT apply at the airport. If you fail to meet the guidelines laid out by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), you will not only be prevented from traveling that day, you can also be charged with a crime.
How do I transport my firearm in the airport?
Your firearm MUST be:
- In a locked, hard-sided container that is completely secure and inaccessible
- Checked (it cannot be in a carry-on)
- Declared as a firearm and/or ammunition when you check it
Many people choose to travel with the container the firearm was purchased in. However, you need to be mindful that it meets all of these requirements because some containers do not adequately secure your firearm.
Do TSA guidelines apply only to guns?
No. All firearm parts, such as magazines, clips, bolts, and firing pins, are prohibited from being transported in carry-on luggage. These parts may be included in your checked luggage, and do not need a secure container or airport declaration.
Ammunition is also prohibited from your carry-on luggage, and must be transported in the same fashion as a full firearm, including the container and declaration to the airport staff. This rule also applies to replica firearms, which must be transported in your checked luggage only.
TSA does have a special exception for rifle scopes, which are permitted in your carry-on luggage.
How do I transport my ammunition?
- Ammunition must be checked. (It cannot be in a carry-on.)
- Firearm magazines and ammunition clips, whether loaded or empty, must be securely boxed or included within a hard-sided case containing an unloaded firearm.
- Small-arms ammunition must be packaged in a fiber, wood, plastic, or metal box, specifically designed to carry ammunition.
- Ammunition must be declared to the airline when you check it.
- Ammunition has quantity limits. Check with your airline for specific details.
If I am a law enforcement officer, can I fly armed?
- Yes, BUT there are many requirements for flying armed, and you must meet each of them. You are required to:
- Be a federal law enforcement officer, or a full-time municipal, county, state, tribal, or territorial law enforcement officer who is a direct government agency employee.
- Be sworn and commissioned to enforce criminal or immigration statutes.
- Be authorized by the employing agency to have the weapon in connection with assigned duties.
- Have completed the TSA Law Enforcement Officer Flying Armed Training Course.
In addition to these requirements, municipal, county, state, tribal, or territorial officers must present an operational need to have the weapon accessible from the time they would otherwise check the weapon, until the time it would be claimed after deplaning. The employing agency must prove that the need is sufficient by using these factors, which state that the officer is:
- Assigned to a protective duty as a principal or advance team, or on travel that requires them to be prepared to engage in a protective function.
- Conducting a hazardous surveillance operation.
- On official travel with a requirement to report to another location armed and prepared for duty immediately upon landing.
- In control of a prisoner, or on a round-trip ticket returning from escorting or traveling to pick up a prisoner.
- Employed as a federal law enforcement officer, whether or not on official travel, and traveling armed in accordance with the policies or directives of the employing agency.
If you are a law enforcement officer looking to get approved to carry a firearm on a flight, visit the TSA website for training information.
What is the punishment if I accidentally pack a gun in my carry-on?
If your gun accidentally ends up in your carry-on, for whatever reason, you will most likely be charged with a misdemeanor firearm charge. The actual charge may look different, depending on your county.
Many district attorney’s offices, such as in Tulsa, have a policy of “gun crimes do in time.” Which means any crime involving a gun requires some amount of jail time. While a misdemeanor firearm charge can carry up to a year in jail, with most “gun in your carry-on” cases prosecutors will typically offer a form of probation in lieu of any jail time, as well as require a gun safety course and fines as a plea deal.
This means if you have been charged for carrying a gun in your carry-on, and you hear the phrase “gun time does in time,” don’t panic, as you will likely be offered probation in exchange for pleading guilty.
Some counties will ask that you relinquish your weapon. This is often the policy on gun crimes, but many will allow you to take a firearm safety course in place of relinquishing your weapon.
In addition to criminal charges from the State, TSA can impose civil penalties, which can be up to $13,910 per violation per person. If you have TSA PreCheck, you will lose it and become ineligible for it in the future.
What are the civil penalties for a misdemeanor firearm charge?
Oklahoma Statistics on Guns in Carry-on Baggage
According to TSA, Oklahoma is a state with some of the highest numbers of guns in carry-on baggage. The chart below depicts how many guns are found in carry-on luggage annually at each Oklahoma airport.
The Bottom Line
When traveling with a firearm, it is important to visit the TSA website and ensure you are following all of the requirements exactly. Any slight deviation could result in criminal charges, and loss of certain benefits while traveling. If you received a firearm charge after carrying a gun into the airport, give us a call for a free consultation on your case.