Airports and Firearms: How to Stay Out of Trouble

Joliet firearms attorneySome firearms laws are complicated and hard to decipher, particularly as you travel from city to city and state to state. But there is one gun law that should be obvious to everyone: you should never try to carry a firearm through a TSA checkpoint, into a secured area of an airport, or onto a plane operated by a commercial airline, even if you have a concealed carry permit.

While this restriction is well-known, it happens surprisingly often at airports around the country.

TSA Finds Hundreds of Guns at U.S. International Airports

The Transportation Security Agency (TSA) says it is finding a rising number of guns at carry-on checkpoints, often in the bags of people who simply forgot they were carrying their handgun. The TSA discovered nearly 4,000 firearms in carry-on bags in 2017, up from about 800 in 2007.

In 2017, the five airports which had the highest numbers of firearms found at checkpoints were Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson, Dallas/Fort Worth, Houston George Bush, Denver, and Phoenix Sky Harbor.

Penalties for Firearm Violations at Illinois Airports

TSA staff at Chicago’s Midway and O’Hare airports find guns every few weeks. For example, in August 2016, a Beecher, IL man on his way to Phoenix was arrested at Chicago Midway International Airport after security officials found a loaded .38 caliber handgun in his backpack. In July 2017, a St. Charles man headed to Kansas City was arrested at Midway after a loaded .380 caliber Sig Sauer was found in his carry-on.

Chicago police made both arrests. Each man was charged with one misdemeanor count of carrying a concealed firearm in an airport and released on bond.

It appears that the TSA is typically turning these “accidental carry-on” incidents over to local law enforcement officers, who then handle the arrest and prosecution on any criminal charges. However, the TSA may also impose civil penalties in the form of fines. For example, the TSA fine for undeclared or improperly packaged firearms discovered in checked luggage is $650 to $1,310. The fine for a loaded handgun found at a security checkpoint is $3,920 to $9,800.

How to Legally Carry Firearms on a Plane

  • Review the rules: Double-check the firearms laws at your destination, as well as the current rules issued by the TSA and the specific airline you are flying.
  • Pack luggage to be checked: Unloaded firearms and unloaded magazines must be packed in a locked hard-sided gun case or in a locked hard-sided piece of luggage. Handguns may be packed in a locked hard-sided gun case and placed inside an unlocked soft-sided piece of luggage. Ammunition must be in the original manufacturer packaging. Replica firearms, toy firearms, and firearm parts must also be checked. Rifle scopes are the one exception allowed in carry-on luggage. Remember to place the key or lock combination in your carry-on.
  • Clean out carry-on luggage: Avoid using range bags and concealed-carry bags as carry-on luggage. Scour your carry-ons for loose ammunition, firearms parts, knives, defense sprays, etc. before leaving home.
  • Check in at the airport: Go to the airline baggage-check counter and inform the agent that you are checking luggage containing firearms.

Get the Best Defense with a Will County Firearms Charges Lawyer

If you have been arrested for carrying a gun at an airport, you need an attorney experienced in firearms law to defend you. Contact a knowledgeable Joliet firearms lawyer at the Law Offices of Jack L. Zaremba to schedule a free and confidential consultation or call our office at 815-740-4025; calls are responded to 24 hours a day.

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