Transporting Handguns And Ammunition On Commercial Airlines
Lansing, MI –-(AmmoLand.com)-
Q: I’m vacationing in Florida this season. How do I transport my handgun and ammunition on a commercial airline flight?
A: You may only transport firearms, ammunition and firearm parts in your checked baggage. Firearms, ammunition and firearm parts are prohibited from carry-on baggage. The key regulatory requirements to transporting firearms, firearm parts or ammunition in checked baggage are:
- You 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.
- We recommend that you provide the key or combination to the security officer if he or she needs to open the container. You should remain present during screening to take the key back after the container is cleared. If you are not present and the security officer must open the container, the airline will make a reasonable attempt to contact you. If you can’t contacted, the container will not be placed on the plane. Federal regulations prohibit unlocked gun cases (or cases with broken locks) on aircraft.
- You must securely pack any ammunition in fiber (such as cardboard), wood or metal boxes or other packaging that is specifically designed to carry small amounts of ammunition.
- You can’t use firearm magazines/clips for packing ammunition unless they completely and securely enclose the ammunition (e.g., by securely covering the exposed portions of the magazine or by securely placing the magazine in a pouch, holder, holster or lanyard).
- You may carry the ammunition in the same hard-sided case as the firearm, as long as you pack it as described above.
- You can’t bring black powder or percussion caps used with black-powder type firearms in either your carry-on or checked baggage.
More Info: Traveling with Firearms & Ammunition — Transportation Security Administration (TSA)
Q: My understanding is that airports are under federal jurisdiction and so, if I run into some kind of trouble with transporting a gun on an airplane, I’ll be dealing with federal authorities rather than state or local authorities. Is this true?
A: While the United States, in the form of the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) and the TSA (Transportation Safety Authority), has the bulk of control over airports and airlines, state law is still involved in some aspects of air travel. For example, MCL 259.80f (PA 327 of 1945 as amended) is part of the Aeronautics Code of the State of Michigan and covers possessing, carrying, or attempting to possess certain dangerous items within the sterile areas of a commercial airport. The statute lists prohibited items, which include firearms, knives, box cutters, and any “dangerous weapon,” among others.
The penalties are vastly different for possessing in a sterile area of the airport and actually boarding the plane or getting the item onto the plane: Possessing in the sterile area is a misdemeanor which can result in a jail term of up to 1 year and/or a fine of up to $1000. However, if the violation of this section is during the course of committing any felony, or while boarding, or attempting to board an aircraft, or the prohibited item is placed on the aircraft or the defendant attempts to place the item on the aircraft, the maximum penalty is raised to up to 10 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000.
Of course, there are exceptions for police, certain active duty military personnel during the course of their duties, and other authorized security personnel etc.
The real “teeth” of this statute come from the fact that a defendant may be charged with any other violation of state or federal law in addition to this charge and the sentences may be ordered to run consecutively. Meaning that, in addition to any other penalty that might be imposed for any other violation, the penalties imposed under this statute may be “tacked on,” extending the prison term of a convicted defendant significantly.
So, when you are traveling by air, you are subject to overlapping federal and state jurisdictions. Pay close attention to the items that you have with you when you leave home for the airport. There have been a few high-profile cases recently where individuals claimed that they “forgot” that they were carrying firearms with them. Also, some shooters have bags that double as range bags and carry-on luggage. This seems to be a bad idea since I’ve received conflicting information about whether the swabs that TSA personnel do for explosives can detect gun powder residue that might be transferred to the outside of the bag from your hands or gloves after a range session. Even if you are cleared, such issues can easily lead to travel delays at best and possibly more serious legal issues.
Steve Dulan (www.StevenWDulan.com) is a member of the Board of Directors of the MCRGO and the MCRGO Foundation, and a member of the Board of Trustees of the MCRGO Foundation. He is an attorney in private practice in East Lansing and Adjunct Professor of firearms law at The Thomas M. Cooley Law School. as well as an NRA Life Member.
The Michigan Coalition for Responsible Gun Owners is a non-profit, non-partisan organization. Formed from just eight people in 1996, we now have thousands of members and numerous affiliated clubs across the state. We’re growing larger and more effective every day.
Our mission statement is: “Promoting safe use and ownership of firearms through education, litigation, and legislation” Visit: www.mcrgo.org