U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) restrictions on firearms at airports are strict, and everyone can agree that safety at the airport is critical.
The penalty for bringing a gun to an airport can range from a misdemeanor with a fine to serious prison time; most often, the degree of your punishment lies in your intent with the weapon and how you carry or use it.
If you’ve been arrested and charged with a TSA firearm violation, speak with a criminal defense attorney as soon as you can to help protect your rights and freedom. To minimize your penalty, your attorney can help make a case for a non-harmful intent of carrying firearms on airport property.
The TSA is responsible for ensuring the security of American transportation systems, including airports, and has specific rules about guns on planes. Concealed carry airport rules may be different than in the rest of Florida. What you’re permitted to do before you reach the airport changes when you enter the airport property.
Lawful firearm owners may travel with their weapons in checked baggage, not carry-on bags, and the gun must be packed in a hard-sided, locked case, transported, unloaded, and declared to the airline at check-in.
Unless you have a specific permit allowing you to have your firearm in the cabin, you can only bring guns on a plane if the gun is secured in the cargo hold.
The TSA isn’t the only federal agency with specific, strict rules regarding gun carrying at airports. If you carry a loaded gun at the airport, you may also run afoul of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF).
The 1968 Gun Control Act and the Federal Aviation Act both govern the possession of firearms at a U.S. airport.
If you don’t have specific authority under federal law to have your firearm on your person in a federal facility, including an airport, the answer to “can you carry a gun on airport property?” is no — even if you can lawfully carry or conceal carry the weapon in your state.
Even an honest mistake of having an unloaded firearm on your person when you cross through TSA security checkpoints could cause you to jeopardize your statutes as a TSA “trusted traveler,” and your TSA PreCheck benefits could be revoked.
Florida law permits the possession of firearms in airports, but there are restrictions. You cannot bring a gun beyond security checkpoints, in the boarding gate area, or on the plane itself, although a lawful firearm owner may carry their weapon in the airport if they are not in those areas.
That said, federal laws regarding firearms possession in airports supersede state laws, so even if you’re following Florida laws, you could still face federal charges if you aren’t careful.
If you are charged with a firearms violation at an airport, the TSA fine for firearms may be the least of your worries. Depending on your weapon, if it was loaded, and how you were carrying it (i.e., whether you had it in your bag unloaded or had it in your hand “brandishing” it), you could face up to 20 years in federal prison.
Even if you were accidentally carrying a gun through airport security, you could be charged with federal crimes like:
These may not be the only charges for bringing a gun into an airport that you face; local Florida law enforcement could become involved as well, adding charges like:
If you bring your firearm into the cabin, you could face actual terrorism charges.
TSA fines for firearms are steep — up to $14,950 in some cases; your charge and penalty depend on what firearm (or related item) you have:
Someone carrying an unloaded firearm but with ready access to ammunition for the gun will be treated the same as someone carrying a loaded firearm.
The best way to avoid criminal consequences and TSA fines for carrying a firearm in an airport is to leave your gun at home. However, some people may not have that option, so the next sure way to avoid these steep penalties is to properly unload, pack, and declare your firearm in your checked bag.
Laws change, however, including TSA restrictions on firearms in airports, so before you fly (or even go to an airport), you should check the TSA website for updates to federal gun laws.
You also have to declare the firearm during your check-in process, and your checked bag may be subject to search to verify that the gun is unloaded, properly locked, and secured in a hard container.
Avoiding serious penalties for carrying a gun in an airport seems straightforward, right? But what happens if you accidentally take a gun through TSA checkpoints? It happens more often than people realize, especially to people who are used to Florida’s lenient statutes about carrying a firearm.
This is one of the reasons that hiring a talented gun crimes defense attorney is so important.
Because your intent plays such a large role in the penalty for bringing a gun to airports, an attorney who understands state and federal firearms laws can build a strong case arguing that you did not have malicious intent in bringing your gun to the airport and, instead, made a simple mistake.
The earlier you consult a skilled criminal defense attorney from The Denson Firm after being arrested for airport gun charges, the quicker we can prepare your defense against jail time and high TSA fines for firearms and the possibility of up to 20 years in prison. Contact us today for a consultation!
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