Is It Legal to Fly with a Gun?

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Bag 720x360In the hours after today’s tragedy at Fort Lauderdale International Airport (FLL), the details of what happened are not yet fully clear. Among the things we do know, however, is that the shooter appears to have carried his weapon in his checked bag and loaded it upon arrival in a bathroom near baggage claim. That of course means that he flew with both a gun and ammunition. Was this simply TSA oversight?

Actually, no. As Vox wrote earlier today, it is legal to fly with both a gun and ammunition. Specifically, the TSA permits transport of “unloaded firearms” in checked—but not carry-on—luggage, so long as the firearm is locked in a “locked hard-sided container” and is declared by the passenger accompanying it. Here’s the TSA’s officially listed bullets on the subject of travelers looking to fly with firearms from the TSA’s Transporting Firearms and Ammunition page:

  • “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, magazines and the likes of scopes, meanwhile, are also permitted in checked—and again not carry-on—luggage once declared. From the same TSA page:

  • “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.”

Here’s the TSA’s full page outline on its policies, which allow room for interpretation (in different capacities) by foreign and domestic states and even airlines. The specifics may well come up for debate in the near future. For now, our thoughts are with all those affected today.

For updates on the FLL situation as it develops, here are a few resources:

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