What might seem like common sense for one traveler may be an unknown topic for another. Walk through any airport at any time of day you’ll see people breezing through check in and others struggling to understand the process at the counter. Step into an airport security screening checkpoint and you’ll see some pros zip through with no problems and also frequently see more than one person complaining that they can’t bring their 32oz bottle of shampoo through … which leads to today’s reader mail.
David, in short the answer is this … You Don’t.
The only persons authorized to bring a firearm on board a commercial flight are Federal Air Marshals, Federal Flight Deck Officers and select Law Enforcement or Government Officials. Even law enforcement officers must complete the ‘‘Law Enforcement Officers Flying Armed” training, as per Title 49 Code of Federal Regulation (CFR) § 1544.219 Carriage of Accessible Weapons, before being legally allowed to fly with their weapon in the cabin.
Even with the proper training, law enforcement seeking to carry their weapon on board a flight must formally submit a National Law Enforcement Telecommunications System Message prior to travel.
So, unless you can meet all of these requirements, or prove that you are in control of a prisoner in transit, as per Title 49 CFR § 1544.221, with the properly filed National Law Enforcement Telecommunications System Message … chances are if you show up at an airport security checkpoint with a sidearm, you will be cited at the very least, and more than likely be arrested.
So … you still want to fly with your weapon … after making sure you can legally travel out of state with a concealed firearm? There are ways to make it less likely airport thieves will target your checked baggage. The first thing to keep in mind is that statistically stolen firearms traveling on commercial aircraft are not stolen by Transportation Security Administration personnel. Statistically the theft of firearms is by airline and ground handling staff.
Typically it is very easy to spot a checked bag containing a firearm. The weapon is typically sent through in a Pelican Case or gun case with non-TSA approved locks plainly visible on the outside of the case. The way most firearms are sent through the baggage system makes them instantly identifiable rather than blending in with the rest of the baggage.
So how do you ensure your checked firearm won’t catch anyone’s attention? Simple, after you have complied with all policy and procedures for legally flying with a firearm domestically within the United States, take your secure hard sided case, with non-TSA compliant locks, and place it inside another nondescript bag with no locks on it. A basic black ballistic nylon bag, preferably a little beat up. A basic small black ballistic nylon bag, that appears to have a lot of miles on it, but no locks on the outside, won’t catch the attention of a baggage handler or other ground staff.
The TSA will still see the contents, as per the guidelines for checking a firearm, you can’t prevent that, but your weapon will blend in for everyone else at the airport.