Throughout the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, an interesting phenomena has occurred. There has been a large uptick in the number of guns that have been discovered in the possession of travellers in a number of Florida airports.
Accidentally leaving a weapon in your luggage, or bringing your gun with you when you go through the TSA checkpoint can happen to anyone. However, this can lead to serious fines and convictions. Throughout 2020 so far, TSA has discovered over 360 guns left in luggage, and many travellers have been charged with carrying a concealed firearm without a permit.
If you are caught with a concealed weapon at the airport, even if you have a permit, you can still receive a fine. The reason behind this increase in accidentally concealed guns is unclear. It is possible that travelers are focused on complying with COVID-19 restrictions while traveling, and are forgetting to follow important gun-storage and transportation processes.
Everybody makes mistakes, and if you have been charged with carrying a concealed firearm without a permit, you can get legal representation to defend your case.
What is Carrying a Concealed Firearm Without a Permit?
In Florida, laws relating to carrying a concealed weapon or firearm without a license are covered by section 790.01 of the Florida Statutes. This section explains that:
- If you do not have a license and you carry a concealed weapon, electric weapon, or “device”, this is a misdemeanour of the first degree.
- If you do not have a license and you carry a concealed firearm, this is a felony of the third degree.
The difference between a weapon and a firearm is covered by section 790.001 of the Florida Statutes. It explains that:
- A concealed weapon includes a “dirk, metallic knuckles, billie, tear gas gun, chemical weapon or device, or other deadly weapon carried on or about a person in such a manner as to conceal the weapon from the ordinary sight of another person”
- A concealed firearm includes “any weapon (including a starter gun) which will, is designed to, or may readily be converted to expel a projectile by the action of an explosive; the frame or receiver of any such weapon; any firearm muffler or firearm silencer; any destructive device; or any machine gun.”
- The word “firearm” does not include antique firearms unless the antique firearm has been used in the commission of a crime.
The concealed possession rules do not apply if you are in the act of evacuating during a mandatory evacuation order. You can also carry a concealed self-defense chemical spray, nonlethal stun gun, dart-firing stun gun or other nonlethal electric weapon, as long as the weapon is designed specifically for self-defense purposes, and you are carrying it for the purposes of self-defense. However, if you use a weapon designed for self-defense in the commission of a crime, you can still be charged. There are also particular circumstances in which you can carry a firearm without a permit, such as if you are carrying it because you are travelling to a hunting or fishing event, or to a firearms club or show.
Misdemeanours of the first degree can be punished with up to $1000 in fines, or 1 year in prison. For felonies of the third degree you can receive fines of up to $5000, or 5 years in prison.
How Do These Rules Apply to Airports in Particular?
Even if you have a license to carry a concealed weapon or firearm, there are certain places that you cannot take your gun to. Airports are one such place. Section 790.06 of the Florida Statutes sets out the conditions under which you can obtain and exercise your license to carry a concealed firearm.
Section 790.06 12(a) states that:
A license issued under this section does not authorize any person to openly carry a handgun or carry a concealed weapon or firearm into … the inside of the passenger terminal and sterile area of any airport…
However, you are allowed to carry your firearm into the check-in terminal if it is “encased for shipment for purposes of checking such firearm as baggage to be lawfully transported”. The “sterile area” of the airport means the TSA security checkpoints.
If you forget to package and transport your firearm properly and attempt to take it into the passenger terminal or TSA area, you can be subject to a fine or misdemeanour offense.
How to Travel with Your Firearm
If you want to travel with your firearm, you need to be aware of the particular rules that apply to transporting guns through airports. TSA notes that if you want to transport your gun domestically, you need to:
- Use a properly-locked hard-sided container
- Check your gun as checked baggage only
- Declare the firearm and any ammunition to the airline when you check in
Remember that even if you have a license to carry a concealed weapon or firearm, you cannot bring the weapon with you into the passenger terminal or TSA of the airport. Another important factor is that it should be shown that you knowingly and wilfully violated the rules. If you can show that you have carried your gun into the airport by accident, this can help your case.
Call Stechschulte Nell For Help
If you have been charged with carrying a concealed weapon without a permit, in any circumstances, the law office of Stechschulte Nell can advise you. Don’t wait.
Call our top-rated Florida law firm at (813) 280-1244 to speak to an experienced federal defense attorney. We’re available 24/7 to take your call.