Fear will always be the most effective tool that any government has to maintain control over its citizens, especially the law-abiding ones. However, in a free society such as ours, overcoming that fear is the best weapon you have to show your government that you will always do what you must to enjoy your freedoms. Although the government knows that it cannot eliminate your right to carry a firearm, it will always seek to obfuscate and confuse you in the hope that you will simply chose to forego your rights rather than assume an “unnecessary risk.”
I don’t believe that it comes as a surprise to a great deal of law-abiding firearms owners that you can, in fact, travel on an airplane within the United States while legally taking your firearm with you. Unfortunately, most law-abiding gun owners choose to leave their firearms at home for fear of becoming entangled in a legal web that may end up causing them some considerable inconvenience.
In truth, it’s sort of like riding a roller coaster.
At first, there is a lot of anxiety and trepidation. But, after you travel with your gun for the first time, you see that there is literally nothing to it, and you have no trouble doing it repeatedly. As a result, I have written this article to dispel many of the rumors surrounding air travel and firearms in the hopes that many of you will no longer resign yourself to leaving the Second Amendment at home while traveling.
With that in mind, let’s get down to business.
The general rule is, you can travel anywhere in the United States via commercial air travel and take your lawfully owned firearm with you. In fact, it is a fairly simple and straight forward process. As always, the devil is in the details.
The first consideration is, perhaps, the most important. “Do I want to take my firearm with me and enjoy the benefit of having the capability of defending myself and my family no matter where I happen to be?” For me (and many others, I suppose) the answer to that question will be a resounding “Yes!”. Now it’s just a matter of “bucking up” and getting it done.
Whether you drive or fly, there are always a few things to consider whenever you travel with your firearm. Most importantly, ensure that you are fully aware of the firearms laws of the states in which you plan to travel. Doing the research and confirming your ability to carry your firearm in a state that legally permits you to should absolutely affirm your decision to do so.
Florida is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, yet, the firearms laws in Florida are fairly relaxed. Concealed carry permits from most of the other states are recognized there. I just got back from vacationing in Orlando and Miami.
You can bet your sweet bippy that I carried my firearm. I mean, the whole purpose of vacationing is to relax and I must say, I always feel more relaxed with a bit of firepower concealed about my person. After all, people are assaulted and killed all the time while traveling, right?
Bear in mind though, if you are traveling to places like California, you may not be legally permitted to carry a concealed firearm. Hence, it could be detrimental for you to take your firearm.
Knowing the law is important.
Once you’ve established your ability to carry a firearm in the states in which you will be traveling, it simply becomes a matter of following the process by which you can legally transport your firearm on the airplane. First and foremost, you cannot transport your firearm in carry-on luggage. That will certainly get you a one-way ticket to the hoosegow courtesy of your friendly neighborhood TSA agent … that includes any ammunition or magazines, etc. All firearms must be transported in checked luggage. For the most part, here is what you do:
- Be sure that your firearm is completely unloaded including all magazines and /or speed-loaders.
- All ammunition must be placed in a factory box or container specifically designed for ammunition before being placed into your gun case. Generally, there is no restriction on the amount of ammunition you can have. But, certain weight restrictions do apply. So, take only what you need.
- Everything (unloaded firearm, properly boxed ammunition and empty magazines/speed-loaders) can be placed into the same gun case which must be locked in a way that it cannot be accessed. I suggest that you use a quality gun case, like a “Pelican” case, and use quality lock(s). Remember, you will have the only keys. The days of using “TSA locks” are no longer.
- You must declare your firearm to the ticket agent when you arrive at the airport and check your bag that contains your firearm.
- Make sure that you have no magazines or ammunition anywhere else other than in the case that contains your firearm.
- I would highly suggest that you pack your gun case into your luggage before you leave for the airport just to avoid any unforeseen mistakes.
- In addition, you should check the website for the airline(s) you will be using for any additional details pertaining to the transportation of firearms.
Now, here are a few other details to be mindful of. Once you’ve declared your firearm, checked your bag containing your firearm and received your boarding pass, TSA will inspect your luggage containing your gun case. TSA does not generally have you open the gun case, but they may open your luggage to ensure that your gun case containing your firearm is properly secured.
Save yourself some time and pack your gun case so that everything does not have to be removed to get to it. In any event, you will have to wait a few minutes until the inspection is complete before being allowed to proceed to the routine TSA security area. So, be sure to arrive at the airport early, say, two hours before your flight’s scheduled departure time to ensure that you have enough time to properly follow the procedures, go through security and not miss your flight.
When you arrive at your destination and go to the baggage claim area, check with the Baggage Claim Assistance desk located nearby because your bag containing your firearm may not be processed directly onto the usual conveyor belt system. You may be asked for identification or your claim ticket so have both handy. Furthermore, I would not attempt to remove your firearm from its container until you have the requisite amount of privacy to do so.
One other piece of advice. Since your firearm will be outside of your span of control because of this process, I suggest that you clean your firearm and remove all your fingerprints before locking it in your case. This may be a bit obsessive, but it only takes a few seconds and an ounce of precaution just to be safe.
All in all, this sounds a bit complex, but it really isn’t. A few extra minutes at the check-in area, a brief wait while your bag is inspected and viola, you’re on your way! Travel safely and enjoy your trip.
Have you ever flown with a firearm before? If so, please let us know how it went for you in the comments below.