NRA Annual Meeting 2009 – Flying with Guns

I believe it was former NRA Executive Vice President, J. Warren Cassidy who said, “You would get a far better understanding if you approached us as if you were approaching one of the great religions of the world.”  The more you get to know the issue, the more you think the metaphor actually fits.  One aspect of NRA that takes on an almost religious nature is the Annual Meeting, which is in Phoenix this year.  We’re expecting 50,000 faithful to make the pilgrimage, something at every NRA member should do at least once their life.

This year, like last year, we have a bunch of bloggers who will be flying in from far away places.  Some of them wish to travel with guns.  I’ve done the TSA dance four times with firearms.  Once in Reno, once in St. Louis, and twice in Philadelphia, and not once have had an issue.

You’ll want to keep the pistol in a secured, hard sideed container, with ammunition kept in the original manufacturers packaging.  Different airlines have different rules, so check the rules for your airline ahead of time.  But most will accept ammunition in the same container as the pistol, provided it’s in the manufacturers packaging.

Since you’re likely to be traveling to the NRA Annual Meeting with a pistol rather than a rifle, it makes it easier.  Get a small, pistol sized hard gun case, that doesn’t advertise “GUN!” on the outside.  In fact, I would highly recommend Cabela’s “Bullet Proof” line of pistol cases.  They are expensive, but worth every penny.  You should use a non-TSA approved lock.  I use a combination lock so there’s no key to lose.  Make sure it has at least four wheels, or a dial combination, because three wheeled locks are easy to brute force.

Once you go up and declare a firearm, if you have a ticket agent who knows what they are doing, she’ll give you a card where you will declare to the airline that you do not have a loaded gun by signing the card.  The card goes in the pistol case.  This is your proof that you declared the firearm, so any subsequent law enforcement that comes upon your gun knows that you declared it legally.  Once that’s done, stuff it inside your regular luggage, and take it to the TSA counter (the ticket agent will tell you where, if they are any good) and have them run it through the x-ray machine.  They can inspect the chamber and magazine on the x-ray.  Carry a copy of this with you, and also the airline policy on travel with guns.

If you follow these guidelines, you shouldn’t have any trouble.  Flying with guns is easy, and I’ve never had a ticket agent that didn’t know what to do.  According to NRA, we’re good to carry at the convention center in Phoenix, with the exception venues for events which will be serving alcohol, where guns will not be permitted.  In fact, it’s illegal to carry firearms onto premises that serve alcohol in Arizona.

10 Responses to “NRA Annual Meeting 2009 – Flying with Guns”

  1. Laughingdog says:

    So you can only take store bought ammo with you then? How do people get things like Boomershoot with reloaded ammo then? Or are plastic ammo boxes considered equivalent to manufacturer’s packaging?

  2. Carl in Chicago says:


    I find flying with guns to be less a hassle than without them! I would also recommend two more things be done …

    1) Write down the name of the attendant who checks the firearm

    2) Lock the luggage yourself, before handing it to TSA, and remain present while TSA screens so that you can open the lock of necessary, and so that you can watch the luggage be conveyed away from the TSA screening area.

    If you are really anal, request and write down the name of the supervising TSA screener.

    Theft of guns at airports is not uncommon, and when it happens, it’s usually an inside job.

  3. Sebastian says:

    Plastic ammo boxes should be fine. The point is they don’t want ammunition loose in a container. Some airlines will take a loaded magazine, provided you cap the mag. I think it’s mostly they don’t want to risk a primer getting struck in flight and punching a hole in the plane.

  4. Flying isn’t that mysterious if you follow the rules. However each airport and TSA agent is different. Pittsburgh can be a little tedious to fly out of compared to Canton/Akron or even New Orleans … And yes i agree with using a non-TSA approved lock on the gun case itself.Ran into a TSA agent in Bozeman, MT once back in ’07 that didn’t know her job very well, i guess quoting the reg’s from memory must have antagonized her since she called security on me for arguing that the ‘declaration’ card is supposed to be inside the case with the firearm! I finally begged a piece of scotch tape from the ticket agent to affix the card onto the outside of the case, instead of just letting it just roam around the innards of the suitcase. A formal complaint against her went nowhere …Laughingdog: i use the old boxes from store bought ammo to transport reloads, just to keep from being hassled.

  5. Bitter says:

    I’ve been told, even by a TSA official, to not only put a non-TSA lock on the case inside the suitcase, but also on the suitcase itself. Because I’ve always been walked over to the scanning area and asked to wait to witness it being scanned, it’s never been a problem. If they needed to get into it, I’m there to unlock it. After they scan it, no employee has any business getting into that bag.

  6. Thirdpower says:

    That’s why I drive.

  7. Mike w. says:

    Thanks for the info Sebastian.

    Third – I’d prefer driving, but Delaware to Arizona isn’t really feasible.

  8. I’ve had very good experiences over the years flying with guns. The only slightly weird one was when I checked a case with two handguns at SFO. The agent looked at me as though I had opened up a case with two live, spitting cobras in it. Of course, flying out of Boise Airport, it’s second nature to the agents.

    Putting the gun case inside another suitcase after it has been checked is highly recommended. A friend flew from Atlanta to Los Angeles, and somehow his handgun case got lost. But only for a week. Somehow it was magically misdirected to Germany. When it arrived back in Los Angeles, it was still locked. But the Glock that was supposed to be inside was never found.

  9. Mopar says:

    Of course, none of that matters if you are flying in or out of a NYC airport. Go directly to jail, do not pass go.

  10. Carl in Chicago says:

    Flying out of Chicago’s OHare has been a breeze. I’ve only done it four or five times, but every time they just act like it’s routine as can be. I am actually pleased by the way it’s worked. And supposedly … all guns must be registered in Chicago, and handguns cannot be. Go figure.