Checking a firearm while flying

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troglodyte
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Checking a firearm while flying

#1

Post by troglodyte » Mon Jun 11, 2007 5:13 pm

I'm sure this has been covered but I felt it may be timely to bring it up again as vacation season is upon us and our firearms may be flying with us.


Others have mentioned it in other topics and forums but I will reiterate it here; First, make sure you know the requirements for both the airlines and TSA and follow them to a T. If you don't understand a part, start calling. I have found "they" are happy to clarify things. I haven't found any major differences, if any, in policies.

Second, it doesn't hurt to have the airline's and TSA policy concerning firearms printed off. If you get a newbie, they may not be up to the regs. and a copy will help move things along. Don't expect them to take your word or your copy as gospel but it will get them moving in the right direction. Carry a copy and have a copy in the case.

BTW, TSA is real picky about letting you touch anything once the case is in their possession. If they need it unlocked, more than likely you will have to give them your key/combo.

A nice touch is to have the action open (showing an empty chamber) with a cable lock running through the cylinder or grip/slide. I also unload my magazines. I figure anything I can do to show the firearm unloaded/inoperable the better things will go. It may be overkill but I don't see it hurting anything.

Here is what has worked for me (in my limited experience)

Firearm in the case it came in.
Unloaded action open with cable lock through action.
Unloaded mags in case
Cartridges in a box in the case. (Not necessarily the same box they came in. I have a plastic Federal box that is nice but carry Speers in it. Any box will do. My understanding is they just don't want loose rounds rolling around.)
My business card in the case
Copy of regs in case
Double check
Lock case with small padlock
Pack in suitcase
Lock suitcase

I cut out some of the foam in the case to fit the mags and ammo box. It makes everything fit nice and snug.

When I get to the counter I present my DL and flight information and tell the agent I need to "declare a firearm". They will ask if it is unloaded and have you fill out some documentation with name, address, phone, and, IIRC something about the firearm being unloaded, etc. The agent will then do one of two things, either check the firearm themselves or have you walk/follow the bag to the TSA where they check it. At some point someone will attach a tag to the suitcase. I'm not sure what it says or means.

At Love Field the SWA agent checked it and the TSA just looked at it as it went through xray. I was instructed to standby in case TSA needed to check it. TSA wondered why I was standing around...go figure.

At Lubbock the counter agent had me walk my bag over to TSA.

I flew out of Houston Hobby one time and the TSA agent wanted to check my bag before I got to the counter. I politely told him that I had to make a declaration and would come back to see him in a few minutes. I guess he got the point and when I went back to see him we had a nice conversation about handguns and CHL.

Maybe we can start a sticky about how different airports in Texas and out of state handle firearm declarations.

If you are flying out-of-state, make sure you know the firearms laws where you are going.

M


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Re: Checking a firearm while flying

#2

Post by frankie_the_yankee » Mon Jun 11, 2007 7:18 pm

I fly with checked firearms quite often, and my experience has been somewhat different. A few points.
troglodyte wrote: BTW, TSA is real picky about letting you touch anything once the case is in their possession. If they need it unlocked, more than likely you will have to give them your key/combo.
I have never had TSA do this. They have always asked me to unlock the case if needed. Frequently, they just inspect it with the machine and do not require it to be opened.
troglodyte wrote: When I get to the counter I present my DL and flight information and tell the agent I need to "declare a firearm". They will ask if it is unloaded and have you fill out some documentation with name, address, phone, and, IIRC something about the firearm being unloaded, etc.
I've never had an agent have me fill out anything with name, address and phone except for the name/address tags that are normally affixed to checked bags VOLUNTARILY, whether they contain declared guns or not.

The only thing that is required by federal law and/or any airline policy that I have ever encountered is the orange tag that says, "Unloaded Firearm", where you simply sign and date a statement to the effect that the declared firearm is unloaded and that you understand that it is a felony to make this claim falsely.

The only time they gave me a form to fill out was once in San Jose where the agent misunderstood and thought I was declaring that I would be carrying a loaded firearm with me in the passenger cabin. I knew something was wrong right away when I saw check boxes for statements like, "I am a US Marshall transporting a federal prisoner.....".

I went, "Whoa! What's this? I ain't no US Marshall. I just want to check an unloaded firearm in my checked baggage."

troglodyte wrote: The agent will then do one of two things, either check the firearm themselves or have you walk/follow the bag to the TSA where they check it. At some point someone will attach a tag to the suitcase. I'm not sure what it says or means.
The "Unloaded Firearm" tag always goes INSIDE the case. TSA attaches a small sticky TSA tag to every checked bag they screen, whether it contains a firearm or not. It is simply SOP for them.
troglodyte wrote: If you are flying out-of-state, make sure you know the firearms laws where you are going.

M
You bet. You won't have any problems on the way out, but you can easily get busted on the way back when you declare the gun(s) in some repressive jurisdiction where, for the time being, (meaning until SCOTUS rules on Parker) you are not allowed to possess them. Chicago and NYC are prime examples of this. MA is another, with NJ not far behind.
Ahm jus' a Southern boy trapped in a Yankee's body

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Re: Checking a firearm while flying

#3

Post by Zero_G » Mon Jun 11, 2007 7:36 pm

frankie_the_yankee wrote:The "Unloaded Firearm" tag always goes INSIDE the case. TSA attaches a small sticky TSA tag to every checked bag they screen, whether it contains a firearm or not. It is simply SOP for them.
Excellent point. Many years ago they would tag luggage containing firearms, but they had so many guns stolen they finally stopped telling people which suitcases to break into!

Here's the website with the TSA requirements for packing (pun intended): http://www.tsa.gov/travelers/airtravel/ ... _1666.shtm

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#4

Post by troglodyte » Tue Jun 12, 2007 11:43 am

Good to hear experiences from a more seasoned traveller. When I tried to unlock my bag or case the TSA agent would not let me. Maybe it was just the individual and not any kind of policy.

I had a tag put in the case but I also had a tag on my bag...that wasn't on it when I got off the plane. Maybe it is something our local airport does...or maybe I just associated the wrong things.

I haven't filled out an orange tag. Unique to airports or airlines?


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Re: Checking a firearm while flying

#5

Post by KBCraig » Tue Jun 12, 2007 1:52 pm

frankie_the_yankee wrote:The "Unloaded Firearm" tag always goes INSIDE the case.
Point of clarification: SOP used to be that the declaration went on top of the firearms case when inside another piece of luggage, but inside if the firearms case was a standalone piece of luggage (i.e., shotgun or rifle case).

Has this changed?

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#6

Post by anygunanywhere » Tue Jun 12, 2007 2:40 pm

Kevin,

In my experience there is no consistency. Some TSA people put it on top of the case in my luggage and some make me open the hard case and put it inside. I just kind of go with the flow.

I have never traveled with long guns.

The only consistent part of the whole thing is that in the smaller airports the process is always easier, although I have anly had two difficult experiences out of all the times I have flown with firearms.

Anygun
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#7

Post by anygunanywhere » Tue Jun 12, 2007 2:50 pm

troglodyte wrote:When I tried to unlock my bag or case the TSA agent would not let me. Maybe it was just the individual and not any kind of policy.
My bags were opened by TSA only once, requiring me to give them the combination. The TSA website has the policy.
I had a tag put in the case but I also had a tag on my bag...that wasn't on it when I got off the plane. Maybe it is something our local airport does...or maybe I just associated the wrong things.
The declaration tag is orange and is filled out at the ticket counter. It has your name, flight number, date, and signature on it. Most airlines put a bar code tag from your luggage tag on it. It is placed inside your luggage. There are not supposed to be any tags identifying the luggage as containing firearms on the outside. TSA puts a small round holographic seal on the luggage tag when they inspect your luggage.
I haven't filled out an orange tag. Unique to airports or airlines?
No, every airline has the declaration tags. Every one I have seen is orange.

The airline and TSA personnel will help you through everything. All you have to do is have the hardcase and locks ready with the ammo in suitable containers. Simply tell tha agent at the ticket counter you have "unloaded firearms to declare". Follow their directions.

The airlines deal with firearms all the time. Recently at Houston Intercontinental, there were three travellers, myself included lined up right next to each other declaring firearms. Continental never flinched, just did what they had to do.

Anygun
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Re: Checking a firearm while flying

#8

Post by frankie_the_yankee » Tue Jun 12, 2007 3:28 pm

KBCraig wrote:
frankie_the_yankee wrote:The "Unloaded Firearm" tag always goes INSIDE the case.
Point of clarification: SOP used to be that the declaration went on top of the firearms case when inside another piece of luggage, but inside if the firearms case was a standalone piece of luggage (i.e., shotgun or rifle case).

Has this changed?
Every time I have flown with a gun, spanning about 15 years now, they have had me put the orange tag inside the hard case with the gun and lock it up.
Ahm jus' a Southern boy trapped in a Yankee's body


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Re: Checking a firearm while flying

#9

Post by PatrickS » Thu Jun 14, 2007 3:17 pm

frankie_the_yankee wrote:
troglodyte wrote: If you are flying out-of-state, make sure you know the firearms laws where you are going.

M
You bet. You won't have any problems on the way out, but you can easily get busted on the way back when you declare the gun(s) in some repressive jurisdiction where, for the time being, (meaning until SCOTUS rules on Parker) you are not allowed to possess them. Chicago and NYC are prime examples of this. MA is another, with NJ not far behind.
I presume this wouldn't be a problem if one were simply in transit
through e.g. Chicago OHare, right.

E.g. If I'm returning from a trip to Europe with checked firearms, and
am transferring in Chicago for my flight to Dallas -- in which case, I have
to collect my luggage and go through customs, etc. -- I presume I'm not
going to be arrested for posession, right?

I also wonder if I have to then make a new declaration when dropping
the bags off at the transfer belt, even if they are tagged all the way
through to Dallas.

(might need to give the airline/TSA a call about the above -- glad this
thread made me think about it... as I'll be doing exactly the above
at the end of the summer)

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#10

Post by anygunanywhere » Thu Jun 14, 2007 3:24 pm

Illinois in general and Chicago in particular have some arcane and annoying firearms laws. I would highly recommend you do your homework prior to flying to Chicago with firearms, especially pistols. The same for New York City.

If you are in possession of your luggage then you are in possession of your firearms. Although the Firearms Owner Protection Act protects you, there have been instances of travellers in compliance with the act being arrested in NYC. I do not know about Chicago.

I visit Chicago area regularly. There is no way I can bring my handguns through Chicago. Illinois has an FOID (Firearms Owner ID) card system. You can not possess firearms nor purchase ammo unless you have the card. Handguns are banned in Chicago period.

We all know Illinois and Chicago are much safer because of the restrictions!

Daleystan.

Anygun
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#11

Post by PatrickS » Thu Jun 14, 2007 3:36 pm

anygunanywhere wrote:Illinois in general and Chicago in particular have some arcane and annoying firearms laws. I would highly recommend you do your homework prior to flying to Chicago with firearms, especially pistols. The same for New York City.

If you are in possession of your luggage then you are in possession of your firearms. Although the Firearms Owner Protection Act protects you, there have been instances of travellers in compliance with the act being arrested in NYC. I do not know about Chicago.

I visit Chicago area regularly. There is no way I can bring my handguns through Chicago. Illinois has an FOID (Firearms Owner ID) card system. You can not possess firearms nor purchase ammo unless you have the card. Handguns are banned in Chicago period.

We all know Illinois and Chicago are much safer because of the restrictions!

Daleystan.

Anygun
OK. This motivated a quick look on packing.org (which is
not necessarily guarunteed to be correct, so I'll be following
this up with some verifications). But I found the following:

http://www.packing.org/state/illinois/# ... _journ_law
(a) (1) No person may acquire or possess any firearm within this State without having in his or her possession a Firearm Owner's Identification Card previously issued in his or her name by the Department of State Police under the provisions of this Act.
(2) No person may acquire or possess firearm ammunition within this State without having in his or her possession a Firearm Owner's Identification Card previously issued in his or her name by the Department of State Police under the provisions of this Act.
(b) The provisions of this Section regarding the possession of firearms and firearm ammunition do not apply to:
...
(9) Nonresidents whose firearms are unloaded and enclosed in a case;
...
Which seems to say that I shouldn't have any problems.

Of course, that's not to say that I couldn't be arrested, as a matter
of policy, and have to clear myself in court.

Anyone have any experience, or input otherwise, on this?


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#12

Post by austin » Thu Jun 14, 2007 4:03 pm

I fly into and out of Ohare and Midway regularly.

I travel with my carry pistol with the intent of rearming myself in the airport bathroom or parking lot ( depending on local law ) when I reach either Texas or a state that has reciprocity.

You can travel into Chicago and transit to your destination legally as long as you follow the local laws. For me this means pistol with a lock on it as well as the case and the ammunition in another bag.

There are a few towns in IL which ban all handguns so you do not want to stay there. I dont stay in these towns. I leave my pistol in my hotel room locked in my luggage or in my car trunk locked away.

Coming back through either Airport, its the same procedure as at any airport. I've never had any issues in IL.

I have never travelled to NYC and likely would leave my pistol in my car in TX if I knew I would be staying in NYC.


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#13

Post by PatrickS » Thu Jun 14, 2007 4:19 pm

austin wrote:I fly into and out of Ohare and Midway regularly.

I travel with my carry pistol with the intent of rearming myself in the airport bathroom or parking lot ( depending on local law ) when I reach either Texas or a state that has reciprocity.

You can travel into Chicago and transit to your destination legally as long as you follow the local laws. For me this means pistol with a lock on it as well as the case and the ammunition in another bag.

There are a few towns in IL which ban all handguns so you do not want to stay there. I dont stay in these towns. I leave my pistol in my hotel room locked in my luggage or in my car trunk locked away.

Coming back through either Airport, its the same procedure as at any airport. I've never had any issues in IL.

I have never travelled to NYC and likely would leave my pistol in my car in TX if I knew I would be staying in NYC.
Thanks for sharing your experiences. I won't worry then about
transit via Ohare, and will just be sure to have copies of the
relevant Illinois laws on hand, etc.


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#14

Post by txaggie » Wed Sep 26, 2007 10:18 am

Last week I flew from Dallas-Ft Worth to Orlando, Florida, on American Airlines. Overall, traveling with two handguns, a Kahr PM9 and a Keltec P32, here is what I encountered. Obviously this could be just my encounters, ymmv.

1. They (American Airlines) are VERY interested in the fact that your ammo is in a "FACTORY" box. Even though I took a mix of 32 and 9, I put them both in a Winchester factory box. They closely examined the box, but not what was in it.

2. At DFW, they didn't even have me open the locked case. BTW, I used a softside suitcase because it had the tubes from the handle in the main compartment, I wrapped the cable around these tubes. So if you wanted to steal the locked case, you basically would have had to steal the whole suitcase.

3. At Florida, they had me open the case to let them look in, but they didn't handle. BTW, these are only AA ticket agents looking at my stuff, not TSA.

4. I was never walked to an xray machine with TSA, apparently they have a new policy (overheard from two ticket agents discussing the fact that they just put my suitcases on the conveyor belt) that it just goes on the conveyer belt and obviously they catch it on the xray machine. I had to sign a form that stated what was in the case. At FL, I got smart and used some tape to affix the form to the case so that it wasn't just loose in the suitcase.

So overall very easy, but remember I was going between two very gun friendly states and I obviously wasn't the first one to be helped by these particular agents.

Funny note, in FL, I am waiting in line and a ticket agent comes over to tell us that we can use the self check-in and I say,
"That's ok, I need to stay in this line."

She asks "Why, did you have a bad experience with self check-in?"

I very quietly lean over and say "No, because I have to declare a firearm in my checked luggage"

She replies, "Yeah, you had better stay in that line" :)
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Re: Checking a firearm while flying

#15

Post by Familyman1993 » Fri Mar 14, 2008 3:20 pm

Anyone know if there is any limit to the number of firearms one can check on to the plane? I’m flying with firearms for the first time later this year and will plan on having both my daily carry and my wife’s daily carry in one hardcase (plus mags and ammo). I wasn’t sure if there was a limit to one per person or two per person. I’d rather be the one dealing with the firearms at the airport and let my wife and kids go to the gate and meet them there later.
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