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What If I Accidentally Bring a Gun to the Airport?

Understanding Your Rights After an Arrest for Unlawfully Transporting a Firearm

Thousands of firearms are discovered at airport security checkpoints each year. It is not uncommon for passengers to forget that they have a gun in their luggage. Unfortunately, you could face serious criminal penalties for bringing a loaded gun to a prohibited area. If you are arrested for a gun crime, you need to speak with an attorney immediately.
At Maverick Ray & Associates, we represent individuals who have been accused of criminal conduct in Houston and the surrounding areas. Our lawyers will fight to protect your rights including your right to carry a firearm. If you were arrested after accidentally bringing a gun to the airport, contact our office at (281) 947-2007 to schedule a free consultation.

Is It Illegal to Bring a Firearm to the Airport?

While it is not unlawful to bring a firearm to the airport, there are several requirements that you must meet. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) notes that in addition to following their regulations, you must comply with local, state, and international laws regarding the carrying or transporting of firearms. 

TSA requirements for transporting firearms:

  • They must be unloaded;
  • They must be secured in a locked, hard-sided container;
  • They may only be transported in checked baggage; and
  • The firearm and any ammunition must be declared when checking in at the airline ticket counter.

No firearms, ammunition, or firearm parts are allowed in the cabin of an airplane. Both must be stowed in checked luggage. Failure to follow these and other regulations may result in substantial fines and other penalties.

How Many Guns Are Found at Airport Security Checkpoints?

In 2021, TSA officers found 5,972 firearms at airport security checkpoints nationwide, according to a press release.  This was the largest number of guns caught at checkpoints, almost doubling the amount recovered the previous year.

Airports with the most firearms located at TSA checkpoints in 2021:

  • Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) - 507
  • Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) - 317
  • Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) - 245
  • Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX) - 196
  • Nashville International Airport (BNA) - 163

While Texas generally protects a person’s right to bear arms, airport passengers are still subject to federal regulations regarding the transportation of guns.

What Kinds of Criminal Penalties Will I Face?

A person who is caught transporting a gun in an airport can face both state and federal penalties. The TSA could impose a fine of $3,000 - $10,700 plus a criminal referral if a loaded firearm is discovered at a checkpoint, sterile area, or onboard an aircraft. The same penalties apply if you are found with an unloaded firearm with accessible ammunition. 

Under Texas Penal Code Section 46.03 it is unlawful to intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly possess a gun in a secured area of an airport. A violation of this code could result in up to 10 years in prison and a fine not to exceed $10,000.

However, there are exceptions to this rule including if you checked your firearms as baggage or were authorized by a federal agency or airport operator to carry the gun in a secured area. In addition, section (e-1) makes it a defense to these charges if you were licensed to carry the firearm and exit the screening checkpoint upon notification that a firearm was in their possession. 

Arrested for a Gun Crime? Contact Our Office. 

If you were arrested for the unlawful carry of a weapon in a prohibited place, contact our office at (281) 947-2007 to schedule a free consultation. Our lawyers will help you understand your rights and fight to ensure that you receive the best possible outcome in your case.

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