If you are considering traveling with firearms and ammunition in the Lone Star State, it’s extremely important to familiarize yourself with Texas’ airport gun laws. Because even in Texas, the same gun laws that have been enacted to protect your safety may actually wind up causing some confusion.
Whether you’re checking up on whether or not you can bring a firearm on your next trip or have already had an unpleasant encounter with airport security, Westfall Sellers Attorneys are here to help. Get your questions answered and understand your rights with this guide to airport gun laws in Texas.
Can you have a gun in an airport in Texas?
Texas is known to be very friendly to the second amendment. But even though Texas has relatively few restrictions on carrying weapons, there are still strict airport gun laws in place for the state. Strict, but not necessarily straightforward.
For example, the answer to the question, “Can you have a gun in an airport in Texas?” isn’t just a simple yes or no. Rather, whether or not you can have a gun in an airport in Texas depends on what part of the airport you’re referencing as well as which airport you’re going to.
Places in an airport where you may be allowed to have a gun:
- In the “unsecured” area of the airport: The unsecured area of the airport is the area before you go through the security checkpoint. However, different airports within Texas have different policies when it comes to whether or not they allow guns within these unsecured areas — and airports in other states may have different regulations altogether. Even if you are technically allowed to have a gun in the unsecured area, you may still get unwanted attention from security guards.
- In your checked baggage: You will need to declare your gun when you check in with your flight. The gun should be unloaded and your ammunition (which is also not allowed in carry-ons) should be stored in a securely locked hard-sided case within your checked bags as well. Make sure to always check TSA guidelines for updates and changes to these regulations before you get packed.
Places in an airport where you should never have a gun:
- Anywhere past the security checkpoint: Whether your gun is in a holster or in your carry-on luggage, you will not be allowed to take it with you past the security checkpoint. In fact, if you don’t have an LTC, you can get arrested and stuck with criminal charges for trying to go through airport security with a gun. More on that in a moment.
In other words, if you weren’t planning on keeping your gun in your checked bags and declaring it when you checked in, it’s best to just leave your gun at home or securely stored (and well-hidden) in your vehicle.
What happens if you forget to leave your gun at home?
It’s hard to imagine “forgetting” that you have brought a gun to an airport, but people who are accustomed to carrying around a gun (typically as a concealed weapon) have done just that. Once you try to go through security with a weapon, though, missing your flight can quickly become the least of your worries. That said, if you have proof of your LTC, you may yet be able to avoid the worst-case-scenario.
Airport gun laws for gun owners without an LTC
Airport gun laws outlined in Section 46.03 of the Texas Penal Code state that if you bring a weapon into a secured area of an airport, you can be arrested and charged with a Third-Degree Felony. If you don’t have a license to carry, you can also be charged with the Class A misdemeanor of unlawfully carrying a weapon (UCW).
Airport gun laws for gun owners with an LTC
Interestingly enough, Texas airport gun laws stipulate that if someone has an LTC, they can avoid being arrested if they agree to leave the secured area immediately after being informed that they have (accidentally or intentionally) brought their firearm where it is not permitted. The law requires the screening officer to tell you about this exception—an LTC holder may not be arrested for carrying a firearm into a secured area unless he is first notified and given an opportunity to immediately leave. If, however, the LTC holder refuses to leave after being given notice and the opportunity, then the screening officer may make the arrest.
Penalties for bringing your gun to a secured area of an airport
Depending on the circumstances of the situation, individuals without an LTC who attempt to bring a weapon into the secured area of an airport in Texas can face either class A misdemeanor or third-degree felony charges.
A class A misdemeanor charge can land you with a fine of up to $4,000 and between 0-365 days in county jail. A third-degree felony charge can land you with a fine of up to $10,000 and between 2-10 years in state prison.
Even if you were not arrested or charged, the TSA might still send you a civil demand letter. A civil demand letter collects damages from you for behaving in a manner that drained resources and inconvenienced officials.
According to the TSA, the amount of civil damages it will impose depends on several factors, but primarily whether or not your gun was loaded. The fine for bringing an unloaded gun into a secure area can range from $2,050 to $4,100. The fine for bringing a loaded gun can range from $4,100 to $10,250. In both cases, the agency states that it may also refer your conduct to the authorities for criminal action. The TSA may be willing to negotiate these charges, especially if you respond quickly and with the assistance of a lawyer.
Protect your rights with Westfall Sellers Attorneys
Already made the mistake of going through airport security with a firearm (intentionally or unintentionally) tucked away in your carry-on? If so, it’s typically best to get in touch with your team of criminal defense attorneys as soon as possible.
Airport gun laws are not as straightforward as they seem. With high-quality defense, you have a stronger chance of getting your case dismissed or reducing your penalties.
At Westfall Sellers, we are here to protect your freedom and defend your best interests in court. We recognize that you only get one shot at this, and we work hard to keep your trip to the DFW airport from turning into a trip to jail.
Get representation from some of the top federal criminal defense attorneys in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Call us at 817-928-4222 or send us a message online today.
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