It is possible to travel with guns and firearms if you follow the regulations.
Strict rules apply to the transport of guns and other firearms on aircraft. In general, you cannot travel with any kind of firearm in your carry-on baggage. Instead, you must check firearms in containers approved by the Transportation Security Administration, or TSA.
The only exception to this rule is for law enforcement personnel, who must undergo thorough training and meet certain requirements to carry firearms on aircraft.
In addition to the TSA rules, each airline has its own policy regarding firearms. Check with your airline before traveling to avoid confusion and delays.
What Qualifies as a Firearm?
The TSA has very specific guidelines about what qualifies as a firearm.
According to the TSA, the following items are firearms and must be checked:
Pistols, rifles and shotguns
Compressed air guns, including paintball guns
Flare guns and flares
Gun lighters (you can’t check these if they contain lighter fluid)
Parts for guns and firearms
Any realistic toy or replica of a firearm
Ammunition (contact your airline to see if it allows passengers to check ammunition, as some airlines prohibit any kind of ammunition on board)
Under no circumstances are gunpowder, black powder or percussion caps allowed on aircraft.
Check a Firearm
You must declare any of the above items when you check in at the ticket counter. Guns must be stored in a locked, hard-sided container, and must not be loaded. The TSA recommends using a key or combination lock.
When you give your luggage to a security officer for screening, provide the key or combination in case the officer needs to open the container, and stay nearby so you can get your key back.
If your airline allows passengers to check ammunition, you must pack it in a cardboard, metal or wood box specifically designed for the purpose. You cannot transport ammunition in clips or magazines unless it is completely secure.
Airlines That Allow Firearms and Ammunition
Each airline has its own requirements in addition to TSA rules, so call your airline before traveling.
As of September 2010, the following major airlines allow passengers to check firearms and up to 11 pounds of ammunition: American, Delta, United, US Airways, Southwest, AirTran, Continental and JetBlue.
AirTran does not allow 50-caliber pistols or rifles, or 8-gauge ammunition. Most airlines prohibit any kind of flare.
Some airlines require you to sign a declaration stating that your firearm is unloaded, and place this document in the case. The form will be available at check-in.
Always check for updated rules before traveling, to make sure you have up-to-date information.
The TSA takes these regulations very seriously. Violators may be subject to civil and criminal charges, and fines of up to $10,000 per offense.
Passengers carrying firearms should remember that the firearm laws in their destination may be different than those at home, and that they are responsible for learning and adhering to the laws.
Get to the airport early if you are carrying firearms; checking them in can take up to 30 minutes extra.