This is a topic that I did some extensive research on before leaving for Texas earlier this week. Fortunately, Texas recognizes my license to carry a concealed weapon so I decided to bring my carry gun to have with me during my travels. To be honest, I was quite worried about the whole thing as the thought of some TSA agent with a chip on his shoulder was bothersome. I didn’t want to drive 2 hours to find out that I “did something wrong” and couldn’t bring the gun with me. However, after reading through some shooting forums and listening to other people’s experiences, I decided that it probably wouldn’t be a big deal. As I’m writing this post, I am currently on the plane flying back to California and I thought I would share my experience with any of you that are looking to do the same.
I started off by researching both the TSA and American Airlines policies on transporting firearms. Both websites had nearly identical instructions that were pretty simple to follow. Here were the main requirements to legally transport a firearm:
- The firearm must be unloaded
- It must be locked inside a locking, hard-shell container, that can’t easily be bent open.
-Pretty much any hard plastic case with 2 or more locks.
- Ammo must be stored in a box designed to carry ammo.
-Doesn’t have to be locked up.
- You must declare your firearm when you check your luggage.
- You cannot carry your gun on the plane.
- You can have a maximum of 3 rifles in a case or 5 handguns.
Just to be safe, I called the American Airlines counter at the departing airport the morning of my flight, just to make sure I was following all of the rules correctly. The lady on the phone was very helpful and very thorough with her instructions. This made me feel much better about the whole process.
When I arrived at the airport, I declared my firearm and was pleasantly surprised to see the staff not burst into mass hysteria. The nice lady at the counter simply said “OK sir, I just need to see the gun so I can verify that it’s not loaded”. I had placed a cable-lock through the receiver, even though they didn’t require it. I figured it would be easier and less stressful for both parties. I opened the case, showed her the gun with the cable-lock, and quickly locked it back up. She had me sign a declaration and placed a sticker on the container and told me I was done. I was a little bit confused as I thought I had to wait for a TSA agent to come inspect the firearm. But since I placed TSA locks on the container (also not a requirement) I didn’t have to stand around and wait. I boarded the place on time, arrived in Texas, picked up my luggage and all was good.
The flight back was a little different, but not necessarily bad. This trip went more as I had originally anticipated (minus the hysteria). When I declared my firearm at the counter, the agent asked to see the case, but didn’t want me to open it. I signed the same declaration and she placed the sticker on the case again. Only this time, I was escorted to a private TSA inspection area where I had to stand by while an agent inspected my bag. He was very friendly and the process took only a couple minutes. He opened the bag, pulled out the case and ensured that it was locked. He ran a little cloth around the case and stuck in some sort of a machine (not really sure what that was about). He never opened the case or asked to see the gun. He simply placed a card inside the bag, sealed it back up and wished us a safe flight.
Overall, I was quite pleased with the process and I won’t worry next time I take a trip like this. Now as far as the body scanners and pat-downs go……that’s another story.