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Air Travel With Firearms

Do you travel with firearm on an airplane? I used to -- about twice a week.  As a result I have a few stories to tell.  See my collection of stories here.

I try to always take a firearm when I travel on a plane.  Part of my "push the envelope" policy.

My experiences are almost exclusive with Horizon Air involving Pullman, WA security and Seattle/Tacoma security. Other carriers and airport security differ. Call your airline before you get to the airport to make sure you will be within their rules.   I have flown with Delta, Alaska, and United with no problems (but it has been a while -- further updates indicate it's time to stop giving United our business).  TWA was a problem.

Also in times of heightened security (see my bomb scare story) things may be different.

bulletTSA regulations and individual air carriers
bulletBrady restrictions on identifying luggage as carrying firearms

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Here is most of what TSA says about firearms on commercial flights.  Just about anything gun related can be carried checked baggage, but must not have it in your carry-on.  Exemptions are flare guns, gun lighters, and gunpowder (this almost for certain means smokeless as well as black powder).  They are not allowed on the plane at all.  Although I haven't seen mention of it, I suspect primers are off limits too.

Airlines have their own rules that may be more restrictive than those of TSA.  Here are the links to restrictions on some of the major airlines:

bullet Alaska (do a search for "firearms", it's a little obscure)
bullet American
bullet Continental
bullet Delta
bullet Northwest (Info about KLM is included -- and KLM "accepts sports guns only, handguns are not accepted."  I guess they have never heard of IPSC, IPDA, Bullseye, the Bianca Cup, or the word "boycott."  To be fair--guns are essentially illegal in the Netherlands which is the base of KLM and it's possible they don't have any flights that begin and end in the U.S. or another relatively gun friendly country which might make my complaint meaningless.)
bulletUnited (See also this report on United)

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Brady restrictions on identifying luggage as carrying firearms.

See http://www.atf.treas.gov/firearms/bradylaw/shippers.htm for complete details.  The short version follows:

No common or contract carrier shall require or cause any label, tag, or other written notice to be placed on the outside of any package, luggage, or other container that such package, luggage, or other container contains a firearm.

Apparently the drafters of this amendment were concerned that outside labels or tags specifying that the packages contain firearms simply invite thefts. This labeling prohibition applies both to packages being shipped and to situations where a passenger delivers the firearm(s) into the custody of the pilot, captain, conductor or operator for the duration of the trip. This provision does not prevent a common carrier from employing internal codes or markings that allow the carrier to identify the contents. The Act does not apply to the transportation or shipment of ammunition.

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Last update: January 26, 2006
Email: Joe Huffman