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Flying With Firearms

With the holiday season underway, it is important to know the law if you will be flying with a firearm and/or ammunition. 

All Firearms MUST Be In Your Checked Baggage

All firearms MUST be in your checked baggage.  Firearms are not permitted in any carry-on baggage. You cannot bring a firearm, even unloaded on to a plane with you.  Further, firearm parts, including magazines, clips, bolts and firing pins, may be transported in checked baggage only. Replica firearms, including firearm replicas that are toys, may be transported in checked baggage only. Occasionally, people accidentally carry a firearm into the TSA screening checkpoint. To learn what you should do if this happens to you, click here.

When Flying with Firearms, They Must be Unloaded

Unload and secure all firearms in a locked, hard-sided gun case.  According to the TSA unloaded means: no live ammunition, nor component thereof may be in the chamber, cylinder, or in a magazine inserted in the firearm.

What If You Are Flying With Firearms and Ammunition?

Package ammunition in a fiber (such as cardboard), wood, plastic, or metal box specifically designed to carry ammunition. Ammunition may not be loaded into any magazines, even if the magazine is not inserted into the firearm.  Typically, the original box the ammunition was sold in meets this requirement. Hand gun and rifle ammunition must be under .75 caliber.

Locked in a Hard Sided Case

When flying with firearms and ammunition, the firearms and ammunition (packaged as described above) can be placed in the same locked, hard-sided gun case, unless the airline you are flying specifies otherwise.  The key must be made available so that the bag/firearm can be searched by the airline/TSA if requested. 

You Must Inform the Airline

When you check your bag, inform the airline of the firearm in any checked baggage. Do this every time you check the bag containing a firearm or ammunition. Be aware that airlines may charge a fee for transporting firearms or ammunition. However, it is illegal for any airline to mark a bag containing a firearm with a visible “firearm” sign.  If you see an airline employee do this, report the incident immediately, as this is a violation of the law.

Always, check with your specific airline before heading to the airport for your flight.  You can call or check their website to learn of any special requirements your airline may have. Some airlines may require a special check-in procedure or further paperwork/documentation.  Additionally, you want to make sure you know where your bag will be when you arrive in your destination.  Further, some airlines separate bags that contain firearms. Ask where you will be able to retrieve your baggage. In some cases the airline will return your baggage on the baggage carousel with all the other passengers bags. Conversely, other airlines require you to retrieve your baggage containing firearms from their baggage office.

Know the Laws in the State Where You Will Be Flying With Firearms.

Make sure to investigate the firearm laws of the State(s) that you are traveling to. If you are a member of U.S. LawShield, give them a call. U.S. LawShield will send you a travel guide for your destination written by their Independent Program Attorney in that state. 

You must know the laws of the state you are traveling to and through.  Additionally, you should know if your state has reciprocity with your destination state or states?  Recently, a federal court held that the interstate transportation protections of the McClure-Volkmer Act of 1986 only applies to vehicular travel. Consequently, if you have a connecting flight through a state that restricts possession of a firearm, you could face local prosecution.

Flight Diverted? DO NOT Claim Your Bag!

If your flight is diverted do NOT claim your bag! When flying with firearms, there is always a chance that your flight will be diverted. This may be cause by bad weather, mechanical issues, or other reasons. If your flight lands in a state you were not intending to travel to and you do not know for sure that you can lawfully possess a firearm in the new state, under no circumstances should you claim your bag. Go to the baggage office and make the airline retain the bag for you until you reach your ultimate destination. If you claim your bag, you may find law enforcement moving in to arrest you. Law enforcement has access to the list of passengers traveling with firearms. They have been known to watch as diverted travelers claim their bags. Then law enforcement moves in to arrest them for possession of a concealed firearm.

Below are links related to flying with a firearm and ammunition from the TSA and five (5) of the top major airlines this holiday season:

TSA Information – https://www.tsa.gov/travel/transporting-firearms-and-ammunition

Alaska Airlines – https://www.alaskaair.com/content/travel-info/baggage/special-baggage/transporting-firearms

American Airlines – https://www.aa.com/i18n/travel-info/baggage/firearms-and-ammunition.jsp

Delta Airlines – https://www.delta.com/us/en/baggage/special-items/overview

Jet Blue Airlines – https://www.jetblue.com/help

Southwest Airlines – https://www.southwest.com/html/customer-service/baggage/special-luggage-pol.html

To learn more about driving interstate with your firearms please click here.

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