Here’s a situation many of you have likely experienced more than once: Your customer comes up to you and says, “I’m flying from A to Z, and I’m going to be bringing guns. What do I need to know?” It’s a frequent question, and selling “the right stuff” and giving your customers the right advice can prevent nightmarish experiences and create grateful, loyal clientele.
First tip: “Don’t ask me, ask the airline” is not the best answer.
Speaking as someone who has been flying with guns regularly since the mid-1970s, the airline does have a say — but there are better answers. As always, before you can provide answers to your customers, you must go into detail on the questions.
The matter goes far beyond “getting through TSA” at the departure point, which may be a piece of cake if your customer is flying from a gun-friendly state. There’s the matter of whether or not the customer can legally possess the firearm when he or she lands. There’s also the matter of making sure your customer flying out of an anti-gun jurisdiction and doesn’t come home with a felony charge.
Our country is a 50-piece patchwork quilt of gun laws. Right now, I’d say New York is the toughest state to fly in and out of with a firearm. If your customer isn’t a cop on police business, or covered under the Law Enforcement Officer Safety Act — or able to prove he or she is there for an NRA- or IHMSA-approved event — there’s the risk of felony arrest for illegal possession of a handgun. The lesson here? It may be best to advise your customers to avoid flying in or out of New York with a firearm unless they know the relevant laws and they’re in perfect compliance with them with paperwork to prove it.
Remind your customers only ammunition stored in factory boxes,
which compartmentalize each cartridge, will be accepted.
Familiarize Yourself With The Laws
State gun laws change frequently, including reciprocity on concealed-carry permits even in the gun-friendly “red states.” Here are a few sources I recommend for you and your customers.
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) are the authoritative sources on flying with firearms.
The controlling TSA regulation can be found at www.tsa.gov, search “Firearms.” The FAA’s controlling regulation is 108.11. To view the FAA’s controlling regulation, visit the U.S. Government Printing Office: www.gpo.gov/fdsys, click “Advanced Search” and enter “14 CFR 108.11” — the first result contains the report. Editor’s Note: For SI Digital readers, click the Hot Link Logo to go directly to the PDF.
To assist your customer traveling with a firearm, I recommend downloading these documents to your computer and printing copies when needed. Print two of each — one copy for your customer to present at the check-in desk (curbside baggage check is out of the question when flying with firearms). The other copy should be in the gun case with the firearms, preferably in a clear plastic sleeve. I can assure you, this approach will save your customer a lot of hassle.
Also, recommend your customers to visit the website of the airline they are flying on and search “Firearms.” Every major airline provides guidance along with hot links to TSA documents.
Finally, advise your customer to show up at the airport an hour earlier than he or she normally would when flying without firearms.
Be sure to remind your customer Federal regulations limit ammunition to 11 pounds in checked baggage per passenger — not per suitcase! The ammo has to be in factory boxes which compartmentalize each cartridge! A loose-packed “bulk box” won’t make it through an actual inspection.
Advise your customer to secure the box with heavy-duty rubber bands. It’s not required by regulations, but if the box spills inside the suitcase due to rough handling and a loose cartridge shows up on inspection, there’s going to be a problem. I don’t recommend using tape; it may be cut during initial inspection at check-in.
Sell your customer a solid gun box for inside the suitcase with integral lock(s). A plastic gun box with a padlock whose hasp allows enough movement for an inspector to get the very tip of a finger inside will flunk the test. It may not be clear enough to read in the TSA regulations, but it’s there at some airports!
A strict reading of FAR (Federal Air Regulation) 108.11 will reveal a gun container inside a hard-shell locked suitcase (Type 01) doesn’t have to be locked. By the time your customer has won the argument, he’ll have missed the flight — if he wins the argument at all.
TSA regulations for domestic air travel appear to allow magazines with cartridges in them. However, as generally interpreted “on the ground at the airport,” they can’t have primers exposed. Do your customers a favor and sell them magazine pouches if they travel with loaded magazines.
Pouches with a flap and a secure snap or hook-on-loop closure are probably best. If using open-top magazine carriers, I’ve found it best to secure the magazines in place with a couple of sturdy rubber bands to ensure they don’t slip out during rough baggage handling.
For international flights, the customer should prepare by having the gun field-stripped inside its case. Remind your customer to declare the gun by manufacturer, model, caliber and serial number at U.S. Customs before departing, and to keep a copy of the declaration with them when returning.
The best service you can provide to keep good customers is to give them advice to keep them out of trouble.
By Massad Ayoob
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