Through the first eight months this year, more guns have been found at security checkpoints at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport than all of last year. The 114 found so far surpasses the 109 found in all of 2014. Hartsfield-Jackson is tied with Dallas-Fort Worth for the most firearms found at checkpoints.
In Atlanta, passengers caught with guns at security checkpoints are taken to the police precinct at the airport. Those without valid permits can be arrested. Even if the person has a permit and is released, TSA typically imposes civil penalties of up to $11,000.
As for state criminal liability, a license holder who carries their concealed handgun to a TSA checkpoint and doesn’t immediately leave after being notified of possession and going through the screening procedures is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 and/or imprisonment for up to 12 months. [Ga. Code Ann., § 16-12-127, 17-10-3] However, if they leave immediately after being notified, etc., they will not be guilty.
A non-WCL holder is also guilty of a misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 and/or 12 months imprisonment. However, they will not be given the chance to leave and will be arrested. Additionally, non-WCL holders are prohibited from carrying a gun into the terminal. If they do, it is a felony, punishable by 1-20 years imprisonment and/or a fine of up to $15,000. [Ga. Code Ann., § 16-12-127]
A Transportation Security Administration official, Mark Howell, acknowledges they are seeing a major increase in firearms being found at airport checkpoints nationwide. He attributes this partly to the increase in number of passengers and in the number of persons carrying.
Just this past June, Georgia Rep. Hank Johnson introduced a bill, the Airport Security Act, that would prohibit people other than local law enforcement and Homeland Security employees from carrying guns – concealed or otherwise – in airport terminals, lobbies, baggage claim areas, ticket counters and outside in pick-up and drop-off areas. The measure would expand Homeland Security’s jurisdiction to include non-secure areas of airports and would take precedence over any city or state laws that allow weapons in any airports nationwide.
Johnson’s proposal has been assigned to the House Homeland Security Committee, where the political battle over gun control will continue.
So if you must travel with your firearm, be certain that you know the carry laws and regulations at your destination and follow the TSA and airline’s guidelines for transporting your gun.
The TSA guidelines include:
- The gun must be unloaded and packed in a locked, hard-sided case.
- The case must be transported as checked baggage only, and not as a carry-on.
- You must declare the firearm to the airline at the ticket counter during the check-in process.
- Ammunition must be packed in fiber (such as cardboard), wood or metal boxes or other packaging specifically designed to carry small amounts of ammunition.
- Small arms ammunition, including ammunition not exceeding .75 caliber for a rifle or pistol and shotgun shells of any gauge, may be carried in the same hard-sided case as the firearm, as long as it follows the packing guidelines described above.
Do you ever travel with your guns? If so, how much of a hassle was it?