Wednesday, March 15, 2017

How To Fly With A Gun

When thinking about traveling does it bother you to be without your personal protection weapon? That’s something some of us face. But flying with a gun is not as difficult as you think. These are the instructions from the TSA’s website:
• When traveling, comply with the laws concerning possession of firearms as they vary by local, state and international governments.
• Declare each firearm each time you present it for transport as checked baggage. Ask your airline about limitations or fees that may apply.
• Firearms must be unloaded and locked in a hard-sided container and transported as checked baggage only. Only the passenger should retain the key or combination to the lock.
• Firearm parts, including magazines, clips, bolts and firing pins, are prohibited in carry-on baggage, but may be transported in checked baggage.
• Replica firearms, including firearm replicas that are toys, may be transported in checked baggage only.
• Rifle scopes are permitted in carry-on and checked baggage.
• Ammunition is prohibited in carry-on baggage, but may be transported in checked baggage.
• Firearm magazines and ammunition clips, whether loaded or empty, must be securely boxed or included within a hard-sided case containing an unloaded firearm. Read the requirements governing the transport of ammunition in checked baggage as defined by 49 CFR 175.10 (a)(8).
• Small arms ammunition, including ammunition not exceeding .75 caliber and shotgun shells of any gauge, may be carried in the same hard-sided case as the firearm.”

This is not something that is unreasonable but I would recommend insuring your luggage when flying in case your gun is stolen or lost.
On the 1st of March TSA reported that they found more firearms in carry-on bags than they ever had before on record: 21 across the country, TSA reported on its blog. That number surpassed the previous record of 18, set in 2014. Over the course of the whole week, TSA confiscated 79 firearms in carry-ons nationwide, 68 of which were loaded and 21 had a round chambered.

Don’t get caught like these people. Pack your gun legally and correctly. All these items were confiscated. That can be expensive.

Ammunition is heavy. With recent weight limits and restrictions for number of bags, flying with even as little as 200 rounds of ammunition can mean hundreds of dollars in fees or more. You also have to drag it to and from the airport. Unless it is not a gun friendly destination, buy your ammo when you get there.
Get a good case. The best cases are those made by Pelican, Starlight, and similar companies. These cases are tough! Supposedly a tank can roll over them without damage to the contents. TSA and airline baggage handling is rough on cases, so the best case is a requirement. The typical Walmart case simply will not do.

Use a NON-TSA approved lock. While many will tell you to use a TSA approved lock, this is actually prohibited by 49CFR 1540.111, the regulation that governs firearm transportation. It should be noted that the TSA usually allows the use of TSA locks but in reality they are not legal as they are designed to be opened by a TSA master key, which is expressly prohibited by the above regulation. The TSA will ask you to unlock the case or provide them a key (do not give them the combination if a combination lock is used), then they will visually inspect the packing of your gun, after which they will either have you re-lock your case or they will re-lock it and return your key. TSA agents are not trained or allowed to handle firearm, so no contact should be made in that manner. If an agent feels the firearm requires in-depth inspection, they must have a law enforcement officer come over to perform that function. If re-inspection is deemed necessary after the bag is checked, they will locate the owner and have them open the case again, so it is wise to remain in the area or on the aircraft after checking the firearm. Buy the best non-TSA locks you can find.

For guns, the first step on arriving at the airport is to proceed directly to the baggage check-in -- you cannot use curb-side check-in. Declare to the attendant when you get to the counter, "I have a firearm to check." (Note, airgun/air rifle/air pistol are not considered firearms and do not require declaration but do have to be placed in checked baggage and it is wise to alert the agent as to avoid a delay due to a misunderstanding.) Air tanks are not allowed past TSA without internal inspection. That said, a tank attached to a gun is considered to be part of the gun and not a tank. Thus, limit yourself to one attached tank -- if you must have additional tanks, either prepare them for internal inspection (X-Ray is not enough, unfortunately) or ship them separately. Just-in-case, it is a good idea to travel with the tools to allow internal inspection of an airgun tank. The tanks should all have air pressure released before inspection or take the tool to release the pressure if necessary. There is no danger of explosion from travel.

The attendant will ask for a declaration that the gun is unloaded. There is a form you fill-out with this declaration that goes into the gun case. You will get a baggage tag for you gun and other luggage. Your gun will be sent to the TSA inspector for the next stage of processing.
Ammunition can be packed separately in your checked luggage or in the same case as the gun (as long as it is .75 caliber or less, that is). There are state restrictions on having ammo packed with the gun that may apply, too! There are usually airline limits on how much ammunition that can be carried, typically 5 kilograms (11 pounds) per person. Check with the airline for these limits. Again, you can always ship ammunition separately. While it is relatively easy to ship ammunition, shipping guns is not simple.
The TSA inspection is usually pretty cursory. As stated above, they are only allowed to visually inspect the firearms packing and the content of the case. They are allowed to search the case in depth which may require manipulating the firearm somewhat along with the packing, but no manipulation of the firearm in terms of opening the action, removing parts or magazines or dis-assembly of any type. If this is deemed necessary by the agent, they must have a law enforcement officer come to the area and perform that action. While unlikely, you may be asked to explain your reasons for travelling with a gun. If so, be nice. A short and simple answer is all that is needed. Something like "protection while on my trip," "hunting," or "attending a shooting event". Most likely nothing will be asked. The most I have encountered to date have been statements of positive admiration for my firearms by the inspecting agents.
Once the inspection is complete, close and lock the case and put away your key. Your gun should then become "luggage" except for possibly being routed to special handling upon arrival at your destination. While the airline may tell you that your guns will arrive in a different area than you baggage (think skis), in practice they will often just be luggage and arrive with your other bags. Ask the agent where to expect them if not informed and immediately check with the staff at the arriving airport as well but be ready to check both special handling and regular baggage arrivals.

Semper Paratus
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