Transporting Handguns & Ammunition On Commercial Airlines

Transporting Handguns And Ammunition On Commercial Airlines

Michigan Coalition For Responsible Gun Owners
Michigan Coalition For Responsible Gun Owners

Lansing, MI –-(

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 ( 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:

  • 15 thoughts on “Transporting Handguns & Ammunition On Commercial Airlines

    1. I just had a brilliant idea! I think there’s a gap in our laws….we need to outlaw crime! That should clarify for the criminals they need to stop stealing, raping and murdering.
      Illegal drugs are….wait for it……illegal.
      Murder is illegal.
      Rape is illegal.
      Here is a biggy… “speeding”(in a vehicle) is illegal.
      What are we to do? Make another law?? Banning guns will do nothing because criminals DO NOT CARE!! Insane people do not care either btw
      The roaring 20’s prove outlawing something that widely exists in a republic doesn’t really work.
      It’s the human condition. Laws tape up a deeper problem.
      Personal freedoms such as your career or to get married or not, where to live, how you wanna live etc these are great benefits to living in a republic but the right to protect oneself, this sustains you and the nation.

    2. only dumb people think by taking guns away from citizens will make thing’s better. That will allow more criminals to be able to take that to there advantage of knowing that law biding citizens will fallow what are outlawed so in that more fatality rate more robbery’s ext. wise up think about what will effect you.

    3. Why are people so ready to give away the right to protect themselfs and there loveones. Or for that matter any of our rights. Who rased them.

    4. I want to throw this out to Jacquelyn, I currently live in Detroit MI. where the police force had been diminshed by 30% over the last four year.. Last year we had 398 mudurs in Detroit. Do you think I have protection from the police. It is clear you have no clue about life and the real world. I have every right to protect my home, my family and my self. I am a trained Fire arms instructor. I think it should me a law themn every person take a fire arms safety coruse sjut to understand what it take to use a fire arm in a life and death ssituatuin. Good luck in Cuba Ill throw in too. I am sure you like to food too.

    5. To Jacquelyn, and any other anti gunner out there.
      What makes you believe that the police or any other government personel will not commit a violent crime with a gun. Because they were sworn? Work for the government? Been trained? I have a good friend who is a seargant in the police, he tells me all the time what criminals work for him. Rapists, murderers and whatever they can get away with. you will rue the day when the powers that be finally ban or over regulate the thing you care most about and the only thing you can do is fire off a strongly worded letter that will be thrown away, after your added to the list of course.

    6. What a utopia if there were no guns? Unless you can provide security to your family and self by paying someone else to be your bodyguard, you must own a firearm. When seconds count, the police are only minutes away. During Katrina,the police were confiscating firearms from the public. Looters had no fear and there was no police to protect the people. Britain now has a anti-gun policy and their crime rate haes tripled. When they passed right to carry legislation in Florida, crime went down. It seems criminals would rather not rob people who can defend themselves. What a concept. I hope your going to ban automobiles, liquor, and cigarettes after you try to ban guns. They cause more deaths than firearms, and they don't require a disturbed person to do it. The world is not a happy, fuzzy place to live in and I hope you find that out before trying to ban the only legel means of protection you have. And by the way, don't count on the criminals to surrender their illegal firearms because a law was passed. The break the law every day, hence the term criminal.

    7. Jacquelyn,

      Your logic is grossly flawed and obviously uneducated and ignorant. The 2nd Amendment states that the right to KEEP and BEAR arms shall not be abridged.

      What happens when your home gets invaded by thugs and all you have is the police to "protect" you. Do you think police carry guns for your protection? Hell no!!! It is for their own personal protection. Just as every law abiding citizen has a right and responsibility to carry a gun for their personal protection.

      If guns were outlawed, shootings would still take place. Do you know how easy it is to aquire an illegal firearm? If the law abiding citizen is barred from owning guns, then only the criminals and those who wish to do ilegal things will have guns. Shootings will still happen.

      The only thing to prevent shootings in the future is to have a well armed, responsible citizenry equipped to put down the sick bastards who choose to kill innocents.

      And to say we let an innocent child die so "men could play with their toys". What intolerable bullshit! Guns are not toys, they are tools, weapons, and overall a symbol of the great individual freedom and responsibility we hold as citizens in this country.

    8. Jacquelyn; Your wishful statement about the "only ones" just having guns while disarming the rest of us is a fairy tail.

      I won't get into discussing all the things that are wrong with that statement, but your biggest problem is the cat is out of the bag. You could never remove guns from society, criminals will never give up their guns, and freemen won't either.

      An armed man is a citizen, an unarmed man is a a subject.

    9. If possession of guns were confined to just police and the military like I have previously states, then the tragic Arizona shooting would not have taken place. We allowed innocent people, especially a poor little child to die so that men can play with their toys. Look what happens when one of those men becomes disturbed.

      Jacquelyn Mitchard

    10. Great suggestion Michael. If she's a taker, I'd be happy to throw in a few bucks for the cause.

    11. Jacquelyn,

      Somehow I just know that you are aware that this would make the United States of America a "Police State." Now tell us, is that what you REALLY want? Because if you do, you could just move to Cuba. It's relatively close, so the move would not cost too much. Some here would probably be willng to chip in with that expense. Drop us a line and let us know how that works out for ya!

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