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You Accidentally Brought a Gun to the Airport – What Now?

By Timothy Bussey on March 26, 2019

So you accidentally brought a gun to the airport, and it was discovered by the TSA or other airport authorities. What now? The first thing to note is that this happens to many people. While the number of guns discovered at airports is relatively rare compared to how many people own guns in the United States, firearm discoveries still occur every day. In fact, the number of firearm discoveries has been steadily increasing since 2005.

In the aftermath of a TSA firearm violation, you may feel overwhelmed and shocked. Many people who accidentally bring a firearm to the airport mean no harm and are just as surprised as the TSA agent who found it.

While you may be upset, it is important to keep your rights and your best interests in mind for the future. While some firearm violations can be cleared up quickly, others may snowball into serious criminal charges. Having a Colorado Springs weapons violation attorney on your side will ensure that you get the best possible outcome. If you would like to speak with The Bussey Law Firm, P.C., in an initial evaluation at no cost, call (719) 475-2555.

The Amount of Discoveries Are Rising

There was a 17% increase in firearm discoveries in 2017, compared to 2016: 3,957 guns were discovered in carry-on bags. Of these guns, 84% were loaded, while 16% were unloaded. This is an average of 10.8 firearms per day. These firearms were found in 239 airports across the country.

The Denver International Airport (DFW) had the fourth-most firearm discoveries of all United States airports in 2017, with 118 found. The Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) had the most, with 241 in 2017 (TSA).

How to Lawfully Carry a Firearm on a Flight

Most of the time, guns are discovered when people who did not intend to travel with their gun forget that it is stored somewhere in their belongings. However, if you were purposefully traveling with your gun and weren’t aware of the regulations, or you would like to travel with your gun in the future, you can do so.

To carry a firearm on a flight, you must leave the gun in your checked baggage and declare it at the time you check your bags. You must also follow TSA guidelines on how to store guns and ammunition:

  • Your firearm must be unloaded and locked in a hard-sided container. You should have a key or combination for the lock, and provide it to the TSA if they need to open the container.
  • Firearm parts can only be placed in checked baggage.
  • Replica firearms can only be placed in checked baggage.
  • Ammunition can only be placed in checked baggage.

TSA guidelines include additional specific requirements for transporting firearms and ammunition.

Civil and Criminal Charges for TSA Firearm Violation

After a firearm has been discovered on your person or in your baggage at the airport, the TSA may choose to proceed with civil enforcement. Civil enforcement will involve the TSA sending you a notice of violation letter and a form. This is a civil (non-criminal) monetary penalty for a regulatory violation.

TSA officials take the circumstances of your violation into consideration and determine the severity of the violation. This is how they determine the amount of money to demand. They may offer you a 50% payment option, which is a settlement that allows you to pay less if you pay quickly.

A notice of violation is not a criminal charge against you. Any criminal action taken as a result of an incident is handled separately by criminal prosecutors, and through separate notification. If you are charged criminally, you may be detained and arrested. The airport police may also confiscate your gun.

Depending on the specifics of the situation, you may be charged with a third-degree felony or a Class A misdemeanor. A third-degree felony is punishable by imprisonment for two to ten years and fines of up to $10,000. A Class A misdemeanor is punishable by up to one year in county jail, and a fine of up to $5,000.

After a Misunderstanding at the Airport, Call a Lawyer

A knowledgeable and experienced attorney can help you avoid a criminal charge. If you are convicted of a felony, you will be prohibited from owning or possessing any firearms in the future. A misdemeanor could also affect your ability to possess firearms, but it is dependent on the individual case.

After a TSA firearm violation, you should contact a top Colorado criminal defense attorney as soon as possible, whether you were charged criminally or only received a notice of violation. Our experienced firearm regulation lawyers will work to get the case dismissed, or to reduce the charge against you. Even if you only received a notice of violation letter, we may be able to negotiate with the TSA to reduce your payment amount. Call (719) 475-2555 to schedule your free consultation today.

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