aircraft. Thus, if you have to pass through a security screening checkpoint to enter a sterile area, firearms are prohibited within sterile area and on board aircraft that you board from a sterile area.
The regulation provides exceptions for law enforcement officers (LEO’s) required to carry firearms or other weapons while in performance of law enforcement duties at airport, for individuals authorized to carry a weapon in accordance with §1544.219(LEO), §1544.221(LEO w/prisoner), §1544.223(Air Marshal), or §1546.211(foreign air carrier provision for LEO) or an individual authorized to carry a weapon in a sterile area under a security program.
Although aircraft using sterile area may be operated by an airline or an on-demand charter operator, those aircraft may also be operated by freight carriers, or in some cases, privately owned aircraft. 49 CFR §1550.5 provides a “catch-all” expanding prohibition on possession of firearms to all operations, not just airlines and charter, boarding or unloading using sterile area of an airport. Thus, regardless of type of operation, if you have to go through a sterile area to board aircraft and you do not fall within one of exceptions, you will not be able to carry a firearm with you on your person or in your carry-on luggage. Period.
However, even if you are prohibited from carrying a firearm with you onto aircraft, you may still be able to bring your firearm along in your checked luggage. U.S. Statute 49 CFR 1540.111(c) applies to transportation of firearms within your checked baggage. You may not transport loaded firearms. However, you may transport unloaded firearms provided that you declare firearms to aircraft operator (usually by filling out a declaration form), firearm is unloaded and locked in a hard-sided container and you are only one to retain a key or combination for lock.
This regulation does not prohibit you from carrying ammunition in your checked baggage or in same container as a firearm. Also, each individual aircraft operator may have differing policies and guidelines regarding transportation of unloaded firearms, as well as ammunition. It is best to check with your aircraft operator well in advance of your departure date to make sure you know aircraft operator’s requirements and procedures and that you will to arrive at airport able to comply.
If you are within a non-sterile area of an airport, statutes and regulations do not apply. However, your ability to possess a firearm will depend upon type of flying you will be doing as well as state law applicable to airport.
U.S. Statute 49 USC §46505 makes it a crime subject to fine, imprisoned for not more than 10 years, or both, if a person “when on, or attempting to get on, an aircraft in, or intended for operation in, air transportation or intrastate air transportation, has on or about individual or property of individual a concealed dangerous weapon that is or would be accessible to individual in flight.” Additionally, under 49 USC §46303 “[a]n individual who, when on, or attempting to board, an aircraft in, or intended for operation in, air transportation or intrastate air transportation, has on or about individual or property of individual a concealed dangerous weapon that is or would be accessible to individual in flight is liable to United States Government for a civil penalty of not more than $10,000 for each violation”.