You Accidentally Brought a Gun to the Airport – What Now?
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, even in Colorado.
In the aftermath of an airport 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 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, and knowing your Colorado gun rights, will ensure that you get the best possible outcome.
Colorado Gun Laws
Colorado, like all other states, allows private citizens to own firearms. This is a right guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution. However, there are still regulations and laws surrounding the ownership of a firearm. If you want to own a gun in Colorado, you must:
- Be 21 or older
- Fill out an ATF form 4473
- Pass a Colorado Bureau of Investigations (CBI) background check
If these requirements have been met, you will be permitted to purchase the gun and open-carry it. However, if you want to conceal-carry, as in carry a gun on your person and not keep it in plain view, then you will need to go through a permit process. Once you obtain the permit, you will be allowed to conceal-carry your gun.
Coloradans are enthusiastic gun owners. According to a recent CBS News report, there are over 100,000 gun owners in Colorado currently. This may be no surprise to you, especially if you own a gun yourself. However, the higher number of gun owners in Colorado does not change the fact that it is not legal to bring a gun into an airport, unless you are transporting it in your checked bag. Of course, if you bring your gun everywhere you go, it can be easy to forget that it is on your person before you get into that security check line.
The Number of Discoveries Are Rising
Despite there being record low airport turnout for 2020, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has continued to find a high number of firearms on passengers. In July 2019, only about 5.1 guns per million passengers were found. This year, however, that number tripled to 15.3 guns per million passengers. It seems more people than ever are trying to bring their guns onto planes with them. Considering the current state of the country, it is understandable that people would want to be able to protect themselves during their travels. However, that does not change the legality of taking a gun onto a plane.
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 out of Colorado 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 under the correct circumstance.
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 has the option to pursue civil or criminal enforcement. Civil enforcement, which is the lighter of the two options, 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 so long as you pay quickly.
If criminal action is taken against you, then it will be handled separately by criminal prosecutors, and through separate notification. If you are charged criminally, you may be detained and arrested at the airport. 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 Colorado Springs defense attorney can help you avoid a serious criminal charge. If you are convicted of a felony, you will be prohibited from owning or possessing any firearms in the future. It will also impact your ability to get a job, home, and even seek certain government assistance through programs.
After a TSA firearm violation, you should contact a top Colorado criminal defense attorney from The Bussey Law Firm, P.C., 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.