Is Flying with Firearms Legal?

The tragic shooting at the Fort Lauderdale Airport left many wondering how the gunman got a weapon into the airport in the first place.

The answer is simple: He checked it in his baggage — legally.

While individuals are arrested every day for unlawfully carrying a weapon in an airport, nothing prohibits passengers in most states from flying with firearms as long as proper guidelines are followed. The Transportation Security Administration allows passengers to transport guns and ammunition in their checked baggage as long as they follow these procedures posted on

  • Firearms, ammunition or firearm parts may be transported in checked baggage only.
  • Travelers must declare all firearms at the airport counter during the check-in process.
  • The firearm must be unloaded.
  • The firearm must be packed in a hard-sided container.
  • The container must be locked. Locked cases that can be easily opened are not permitted.
  • Firearm magazine and ammunition clips, loaded or unloaded, must be securely boxed or included within the hard-sided case containing the unloaded firearm.


These rules make it impossible for gun owners to get to their weapons during a flight, but they can easily retrieve them after claiming their checked bags. Law enforcement officials believe this is precisely what the gunman did at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport before firing on fellow travelers.

It is not known how many passengers legally check firearms before they board, but thousands of guns are discovered in carry-on bags each year, resulting in arrests and fines. For example, in 2015, the TSA discovered a record 2,653 firearms in carry-on bags across the country – an increase of about 20 percent from the year before.

Many of the arrests stemmed from passengers who simply forgot their gun was in their carry-on bag, not individuals with ill intent.

The Fort Lauderdale tragedy may bring changes in these laws which would inconvenience law-abiding hunters and responsible gun owners. Stay tuned.