Last year, the civil penalty for carry-on firearms was raised to $13,900. On Tuesday morning, Mark Howell from TSA Public Affairs, explained how travelers can properly fly with firearms to avoid such stiff penalties in preparation for the busy travel season.
“It is important to know the rules of traveling with firearms the right way,” said Mr. Howell. “If you do it the wrong way, by bringing it to the security checkpoint, you’re suffering a civil penalty from TSA upwards of $13,900, the potential of getting a citation or being arrested by local law enforcement and you could also miss your flight.”
Howell said all firearms must be completely unloaded, stored in a hard-sided case with padding and any ammunition is to be stored in a steady state inside the case. He said the case must be completely secure and declared to the airline.
TSA's website says travelers must “declare each firearm each time you present it for transport as checked baggage.” Also, Mr. Howell advised travelers to check with state, local and international firearm laws before traveling.
“Officers at CHA discovered a total of 24 firearms in travelers’ carry-on luggage last year,” said Mr. Howell. “A total of 10 firearms have already been detected at CHA security checkpoints in 2022 so far.”
Mr. Howell said last year was a record year in Chattanooga for firearms at the security checkpoint. He said over the past decade, they have seen a continuous increase in the number of guns year after year, and if volume continues to grow as summer approaches, they are on pace to potentially pass that number again this year.
Last July, Tennessee law permitted open and concealed carry and Mr. Howell said as a result, it is partially to blame for recent firearm increases. He said they are seeing increases statewide as Memphis and Nashville also had record years last year. However, he said regardless of permitless carry, TSA rules still apply that travelers are not allowed to bring a loaded or unloaded firearm past security checkpoints.
“If you’re living in a state where it's open carry, naturally you’re going to have more guns at security checkpoints because people are used to carrying them during the day,” said Mr. Howell. “I guess you have to switch that mindset while you’re traveling.”
Mr. Howell said most of the time, firearms detected at security checkpoints are due to travelers’ forgetting it was in their bag or being unprepared.
“It could be a costly mistake in the long run just for forgetting to check it,” said Mr. Howell. “If you want to travel with it, we don’t want to infringe on anyone's right to take it with them, as long as it is packed properly and stored under the aircraft, we have no problem with that.”
He said 80-90 percent of firearms at the checkpoint are loaded causing law enforcement to clear the firearm. Mr. Howell said this causes delays for others going through security especially with summer travel.
For more information and specific directions on how to travel with firearms, visit here.