Checking guns at the airport

About 20 years ago I was in Johannesburg airport and there was a counter where you could check in your guns before catching a flight. They would check your paperwork and make sure the gun wasnt loaded before packing it away in the hold. At the time, I thought it was a nice idea. It’s a big and dangerous country and you may want to have your guns with you at your destination.

A conversation over the weekend reminded me of this and I wondered if such things are still allowed in the post 9/11 world. The idea of someone walking into an airport with a gun just seems crazy now. But I’m from the UK, so I’m not qualified to judge gun laws at all and I am totally neutral. But intrigued. (disclaimer added as I know how emotive gun discussions can get!)

Are there, or were there ever, such arrangements for internal flights in the US? With different gun laws in each State I could see it being a problem, but some of the States are big enough that you might take an internal flight without leaving the State.

Do any other countries have similiar gun check in desks, either now or in the past?

What would happen if you forgot and walked through the security gate with it still on? Would they just send you back to the gun check in? Or would you be in a lot of trouble and the rubber gloves would be coming out?

Yes. Guns can be carried in checked baggage on flights originating in the US. They have to be declared and packed a certain way, and the airlines have their own rules too. I randomly checked United Airlines, and they allow you to check one case containing up to five guns.

Sometimes at a larger airport an airline will have a special desk just for oddball baggage (which I guess would include guns but I’m not sure), but I’ve never seen a desk just for guns.

You can absolutely check firearms on flights within the U.S. It is rather routine but there are (understandably) rules that need to be followed. TSA even has a helpful web page for it. Firearms aren’t banned from the pre-security parts of airports but they do generally need to be secured in their own container and separated from ammunition.

http://www.tsa.gov/traveler-information/firearms-and-ammunition

If you google “TSA gun arrests” you will find that lots of people get arrested for bringing a gun trough security. TSA reports this happens about 2,000 times per year in the U.S.

I was trying to imagine the reaction in Heathrow…:slight_smile:

I remember some guy getting the full body search and light grilling after just joking that he had a tommy gun in his violin case.

Wjen checking a firearm at a U. S. airport it’s a good idea to have printed copies of both the airline’s and the TSA’s rules. It’s not unususual that the airline and TSA employees are uneducated as to their own rules.

I’ve heard that photographers often use the checked-gun-provisions to avoid theft of their (very expensive) equipment. They pack a starting line gun as they’re legal in countries that do not allow real guns, but are still considered firearms by the airlines.

Once you declare a firearm your luggage gets a special seal that can only be broken with you present. So if security wants to open your luggage they have to call you over so you can watch.

It might not be as rare as the UK residents believe. Hunters travel all over the world, and they take their rifles and shotguns with them. You don’t think UK hunters travel to Africa and North and South America to hunt? There are also competitive shooters traveling to competitions all around the world. There are special rules for packing the items, and they do need to be checked, not carried-on, but it happens all the time.

In the US, as mentioned, a person who is allowed to carry a gun may do so in the front, non-security, part of the airport. Just don’t forget you have it on you and try to go through security.

One should be careful as to where your flight is going and where it stops along the way.

I have read this in a few places, but did not see it personally:

A passenger checked a firearm in accordance with all laws and regulations and got on the plane. The plane had a stopover in NYC, and the outgoing flight was cancelled. The airline returned the luggage to the passenger, who was shortly thereafter arrested and booked by the NYPD for illegal possession of a firearm.

I have also heard that this has happened in Chicago

If that’s true, it’s disgraceful and abhorrent. There would be no intent to break a law, and getting arrested would be due to an unforeseen problem.

I don’t know what the alternatives are if you find yourself in this situation. Not accept your luggage? That would probably mean abandoning valuable possessions. What would you do?

I have to wonder about more details on this. Seems to me that properly checked/locked luggage under such circumstances would be OK, so I have to wonder if there’s more to the story.

Incidents of this sort seem to be real.

I suspect that if the situation is like the first story I linked to the owner will be released without charges because they are covered by the “safe passage” provision of the Firearm Owners Protection Act of 1986 and the stop was beyond their control, but if the flight originates from LaGuardia or Kennedy the owner is in deep trouble. New York City is noted for their draconian gun laws.

Of course, even if you’re in the right you have to pay for the lawyer and you’ll miss your connection, which may cost you even more money.

Until recently the UK Olympic pistol team had to keep their guns in Zurich and fly out at weekends to train. This is because all private owned handguns were illegal, even for Olympic sports people. I believe there’s now 1 or maybe 2 places in the UK where they can train, but the guns have to be locked up and left behind after training. So in the UK it’s not so obvious that people would travel with guns.

Providing, of course, the airport allows it, for now:

(June 3, 2015) - Georgia man legally carries gun through Atlanta airport terminal - ABC13 Houston

http://abcnews.go.com/Travel/story?id=5537963

Both good advice.

For decades I’ve flown all over the country with guns in checked luggage and only had a problem once. When I was flying out of San Francisco and I declared my pistol the airline employee had a conniption. Then she had to read her manual on what to do. For some reason it said she was to have me open the action to show her the weapon was unloaded. She obviously didn’t know what that meant because when I locked the slide back she went ape shit again. Her supervisor appeared and took over. He basically told her to STFU and go have a smoke.

Of the zillions of times I’ve flown with checked guns that was the only time I had an issue.

I’ve flown in and out of places like NYC, Chicago, and San Juan with guns in checked bags. While it was legal for me to have them in those places I expected problems. Nobody so much as blinked. YMMV and I recommend one be prepared for trouble with the authorities if you take a gun to those places.

What about FedX or UPS the weapons to the destination for hunting? ( Law enforcement personal are a different catfish IMO )

What does law enforcement have to do with it? I’ve never ID’d myself when declaring a gun in my luggage.

We’re flying down to Nashville Thursday night on United and Flying back Sunday night on Delta. I’ll report back here if there are any problems declaring my weapon. But I doubt there will be.

I know a couple of guys who ship their guns to themselves via UPS. They do this because they didn’t want to check any luggage when they flew.

Oh get over yourself… If the word ‘catfish’ did not clue you in, then you are clueless & I know you are not. So even if you don’t believe you sometimes get special treatment just for being an LEO, just ignore me because I do not understand not being able to laugh at yourself. Even poor misunderstood cops don’t get a pass from me on that.

I’ve flown with firearms about 10 or 20 times in the US and never had any special seal. In fact, luggage with firearms is not supposed to be externally marked in any way. I don’t want any common baggage handler to know which bags have firearms and which don’t. I also don’t want John Q. Public knowing, either, as I go through the airport at my destination and to Avis for my car.

Another thing also is if a flight gets unexpectedly rerouted to NYC or another gun-unfriendly place, for weather or another reason. Might cause a problem. I might refuse accepting my bag, but I don’t see how.

I usually fly out of SFO and never had a problem. Maybe it’s because of your experience. Thanks for blazing that trail.

One thing: when you declare at the counter, then go to TSA for the inspection and locking the case and bag, make sure the bag is put onto the conveyor belt - witness this yourself. The only time my luggage was ever delayed in all my flying was outbound from SFO once. I cleared security just fine but then the United clerk who had my bag and was going from TSA to the airline counter and conveyor belt (all usual and customary) told me, “I got it, you’re good to go.” Having done this several times I got lackadaisical and and went to my gate. Something happened and my bag never got onto the conveyor belt.

When I got to Houston, my bag was still at SFO. I was bummed because I was taking the Texas license class and didn’t have my gun. So I just rented there, but still.

The one bad experience I had - really, a terrible experience - was at JFK in NYC. I flew SFO to JFK just fine, but on my return flight when I declared at the JFK counter, the agent called police to check my firearms. Since I did not have an NY state license for my guns (why would I? I reside in CA and my guns are legitimately registered in CA.), the Port Authority cops detained me and confiscated my guns.

I spent the night at a holding cell in Queens, had to fight a possible felony or misdemeanor so that cost me $30 large in legal fees, had to return to NYC for the hearing, and I lost my guns.

This was 3 years ago and still pisses me off to this day. My lawyer got the DA to drop the charges, but it was close - the lawyer was the same guy who defended one of the NY Giants players involved in the Plaxico Burress gun incident - and NYC said they would destroy my guns.

Bullshit. I’m convinced some cop or official in NYC has my HK USP .45 Compact and my S&W Bodyguard .38 Special.

Fucking still pisses me off.

How would I get special treatment when I haven’t ID’d myself? :confused:

When I check into a flight I simply say I have a firearm to declare and fill out the card. Why would I tell them what I do for a living? The weapon is in checked bags I’m not carrying it on the plane.