The average first-offense fine for someone caught bringing a gun through an airport TSA checkpoint is $3,900 and it applies—with certain law enforcement and armed flight officer exemptions—even if you’re one of the more than 17 million people with a carry permit. It’s an expensive oversight guaranteed to dampen the holiday spirit of anyone traveling in the next few weeks. Civil penalties of up to $13,333 can be levied by the agency and when local law enforcement arrives criminal charges may follow.
Flying with an unloaded firearm in baggage is legal, but airline and airport rules and check-in procedures are strictly enforced. Local, municipal and state regulations also apply, so research before your trip is mandatory. The TSA also has a handy list for reference, but know the storage requirements and ammunition limitations of your preferred carrier—they vary widely.
Things get more complicated for CCW holders unwilling to surrender their right to self-defense while at a destination. Permits are not honored in everywhere. NRA-ILA has a handy interactive map to check reciprocity status between your state and others.
Although reminders for people traveling by air are frequent in the media, not everyone gets the message. From Sept. 24 to 30 TSA discovered and confiscated 91 firearms nationwide in carry-on luggage. The agency’s year-in-review blog reported its staff found and processed 3,957 guns, as well flash bangs, grenades, a replica suicide vest and inert blocks of explosives during 2017.
Last week a man was stopped at the checkpoint in Baltimore-Washington International Airport when TSA screening detected an unloaded Hi-Point carbine in his carry-on luggage. Officials were told he didn’t know it was in the bag because his mother did his pre-flight packing. Experts speculate he’ll remember to make his bed before the next trip.