Flying with firearms
Flying with firearms
There are three sets of considerations:
- local laws in California and at your destination
- specific policies of the airlines on which you will fly
- TSA rules
In some cases, these appear to conflict.
All airlines and TSA require a hard-sided locking container for any firearms.
If you are flying with firearms from a California origin, see the Transporting page.
It is your responsibility to determine the acceptability of firearms and the local transport requirements at your destination. Laws of states outside California are outside the scope of this article.
Note that New York City and Chicago are well-known to be highly restrictive.
Federal Law, while not specifically applicable to flying, is intended to be a protection to citizens transporting firearms.
18 USC 926A says
926A. Interstate transportation of firearms Notwithstanding any other provision of any law or any rule or regulation of a State or any political subdivision thereof, any person who is not otherwise prohibited by this chapter from transporting, shipping, or receiving a firearm shall be entitled to transport a firearm for any lawful purpose from any place where he may lawfully possess and carry such firearm to any other place where he may lawfully possess and carry such firearm if, during such transportation the firearm is unloaded, and neither the firearm nor any ammunition being transported is readily accessible or is directly accessible from the passenger compartment of such transporting vehicle: Provided, That in the case of a vehicle without a compartment separate from the driver’s compartment the firearm or ammunition shall be contained in a locked container other than the glove compartment or console.
A full discussion of this section and its practical effects is beyond the scope of this article. Briefly, New York City appears to disagree.
It would be a good idea to visit the airline information pages and print them out to take with you. Airline counter personnel vary in their understanding of both airline rules and TSA requirements.
A search for "<airline name> flying with firearms" usually will identify the correct web page.
American Airlines (as of Feb 1, 2012)
Firearms and ammunition are accepted as checked baggage only and must be declared to an agent at check-in. Firearms will only be accepted if unloaded and in a locked, hard-sided container such as a rifle case. TSA approved locks are accepted. Ammunition in its original packaging from the manufacturer is preferred, however it will be accepted in fiber, wood or metal boxes, or other packaging specifically designed to carry small amounts of ammunition. Loose ammunition or clips will not be accepted. Firearms may not be checked curbside. No one under 18 years of age may check a firearm. Pellet and BB guns are not considered firearms, therefore do not require any special handling or documentation. Allowance Maximum per case is three rifles/shotguns or five pistols/revolvers, ammunition, shooting mat, noise suppressors, and tools. There is no limit on the amount of cases allowed. Ammunition is limited to 11 lbs./5 kgs. per passenger.
Firearms must be encased in a hard-sided, locked container that is of sufficient strength to withstand normal handling, as follows: A firearm in a hard-sided, locked container may be placed inside a soft-sided, unlocked suitcase. A firearm placed inside a hard-sided, locked suitcase does not have to be encased in a container manufactured for the transportation of firearms. The locked container or suitcase must completely secure the firearm from access. Cases or suitcases that can be pulled open with minimal effort do not meet the locked criterion. Only the Customer checking the luggage should retain the key or combination to the lock. No exceptions will be made.
Transportation Security Authority (TSA)
As of Feb 1, 2012, the main page reads
Traveling with Special Items Firearms & Ammunition Travelers may only transport unloaded firearms in a locked, hard-sided container in or as checked baggage. Firearms, ammunition and firearm parts, including firearm frames and receivers, are prohibited from carry-on baggage. Failure to adhere to the following regulations will preclude passengers from traveling with firearms, ammunitions or firearm parts: Travelers must declare all firearms to the airline during the ticket counter check-in process. The firearm must be unloaded. The firearm must be in a hard-sided container. The container must be locked. A locked container is defined as one that completely secures the firearm from being accessed. Locked cases that can be pulled open with little effort cannot be brought aboard the aircraft. If firearms are not properly declared or packaged, TSA will provide the bag to law enforcement for resolution with the airline. If the issue is resolved, law enforcement will release the bag to TSA so screening may be completed. TSA must resolve all alarms of checked luggage. If a locked container containing a firearm alarms, TSA will contact the airline, who will make a reasonable attempt to contact the owner and advise the passenger to go to the screening location. If contact is not made, the container will not be placed on the aircraft. If a locked container alarms during screening and is not marked as containing a declared firearm, TSA will cut the lock in order to resolve the alarm. Travelers should remain in the area designated by the aircraft operator or TSA representative to take the key back after the container is cleared for transportation. Travelers must securely pack any ammunition in fiber (such as cardboard), wood or metal boxes or other packaging specifically designed to carry small amounts of ammunition. Firearm magazines and ammunition clips must be securely boxed or included within a hard-sided case containing an unloaded firearm. Small arms ammunition, including ammunition not exceeding .75 caliber for a rifle or pistol and shotgun shells of any gauge, may be carried in the same hard-sided case as the firearm, as long as it follows the packing guidelines described above. TSA prohibits black powder or percussion caps used with black- powder. These regulations are strictly enforced. Violations can result in state and local criminal prosecution, as well as civil penalties of up to $2,000 per violation.
Again, printing the current version of these regulations to take with you may be beneficial.