Planning a vacation for your summer holidays? Not knowing the law could lead to severe consequences. You must know the law that applies to every single step of your trip, from how you legally pack your gun for flight, what to do once you get to the airport, and how the law in your end state or your destination governs your right to possess and own a firearm. Before you start checking ticket prices, take some time with us to review these critical regulations.
Generally, here in Pennsylvania, with a valid license to carry a firearm, you can carry your handgun in the unsecured area of an airport openly in a holster or concealed, and even wear it on your person. For example, while you’re picking up someone from the airport, you may do so.
Flying Out of State
However, if you’re flying out of that airport on a commercial airliner, you must enter a secured area of the airport. When you do so, you must know there are some strict limitations that carry severe consequences if you run afoul of them. The Transportation Security Administration, or TSA, lists the many requirements on their website, which is tsa.gov, you must follow if you’re going to plan on transporting your firearm, handgun or long gun on a commercial airliner.
- Firearms, ammunition, replica firearms and firearm parts, including magazines, clips, bolts and firing pins are prohibited in all carry-on bags. These must be transported in checked luggage and declared to the airliner at the ticket counter. Only rifle scopes are permitted in both carry-on and checked bags.
- Firearms must be unloaded and locked in a hard-sided container.
- Ammunition must be securely packed in fiber, meaning cardboard for example, wood or metal boxes, or in another packaging specifically designed to carry small amounts of ammunition.
- Any magazines or clips must be securely boxed or included within the hard-sided case.
Failure to comply with these requirements and other requirements on the TSA website could result in serious consequences and repercussions. Attempting to get on an airplane while carrying a concealed handgun carries a possible punishment of up to 10 years imprisonment and/or a fine up to $250,000.
Traveling to the Airport with a Firearm
Another concern that Pennsylvania travelers may encounter is traveling to and from the airport with your firearm in your car (if you don’t have a valid license to carry your firearm). In Pennsylvania, to lawfully transport a handgun in your car you must have a license to carry a firearm. If you do not, you’re guilty of carrying a firearm without a license. While Pennsylvania law does allow a number of exceptions to this law, including traveling between your home and place of business or between your home and a shooting range. Travel to and from the airport is not one of those exceptions. If you do not have a valid license to carry a firearm in Pennsylvania, your firearm must be unloaded, secured in a hard-sided, locked case in the rear, the trunk, or the furthest away point of any vehicle. And the ammunition must be separate in a secured container also in the rear of the vehicle. Long guns such as rifles and shotguns may be transported in your car, whether you have a license to carry a firearm or not, but they must be unloaded.
Do Your Research
Be aware, even if you comply with all TSA, federal, and Pennsylvania requirements, you could still be criminally liable for an offense in another state. When your flight ends and you reach the vacationing destination, you are subject to that state’s laws. And if you don’t do your research and you fly into a gun hostile state, the police may be waiting for you at baggage claim.
How could this play out? Consider, you’re legally flying with a firearm in accordance with TSA, federal, and Pennsylvania requirements but extreme weather enters into the question or a rerouted flight causes an unexpected layover in gun hostile New Jersey. In this instance retrieving your luggage could be a felony offense. If this happens, refuse to take possession of your bags and request the airline forward them to their final destination.
Remember, when you’re in another state, you are subject to their laws. If you land in a state that is not friendly to the Second Amendment, you must use extreme caution. For questions concerning security and transporting firearms when flying, call U.S. LawShield and ask to speak with your Independent Program Attorney.