September 19, 2023
Common sense dictates that bringing a loaded gun into an airport on your person is not a good plan – and indeed, it is illegal. However, what if you are otherwise carrying a gun legally, and accidentally bring it into the airport?
This actually happened recently to a Colorado state representative. She brought a loaded gun in her handbag to a security checkpoint, which was detected in the X-ray machine. She was then arrested on suspicion of introducing a firearm into a transportation facility and spent the night in jail. According to the arrest record, she “knowingly brought the handgun to the checkpoint” at the airport, but the basis for this determination is unclear.
This case brings to light an issue that all Colorado gun owners should be aware of – Colorado airport gun charges. Let’s take a look at how to travel with guns legally, and at the consequences for violating these regulations.
Legal Requirements for Carrying Firearms on Planes
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) allows passengers to legally travel with firearms – so long as the firearms are properly contained and declared in checked baggage.
To travel with firearms, make sure that you adhere to the following policies:
- Firearms must be unloaded and locked in a hard-sided container. Only you should retain the key or combination for the lock, unless the TSA requests a key to open the firearm container.
- Firearms are permitted in checked baggage only. When checking baggage, declare each firearm that you are in possession of.
- Firearm parts must also be placed in checked baggage and declared.
- Replica firearms must be transported in checked baggage only.
- Ammunition must be transported in checked baggage only.
If you have any questions, speak with the TSA before your travel date. The saying that it’s “better to ask for forgiveness than permission” does not apply for firearm laws!
Of course, the above situation assumes you plan to bring your gun with you. What if it’s a mistake?
In Colorado, we enjoy our guns. Many Coloradans are licensed to carry concealed firearms and could conceivably forget that they are carrying firearms when going through airport security.
If you are caught with a firearm in carry-on luggage or on your person at a security checkpoint, you will most likely be detained and arrested, even if you brought the firearm by accident. The detention and apprehension are likely to take many hours, so you will most likely be forced to cancel your travel plans.
The Airport Police can seize your firearms, and charges will be pressed with your District Attorney.
Consequences for Airport Gun Charges in Colorado
Depending on the specifics of your case, you could be charged with a third-degree felony or Class A misdemeanor. A third-degree felony is punishable by imprisonment for 2-10 years and fines of up to $10,000. A Class A misdemeanor is punishable by up to 365 days in county jail, and a fine of up to $5,000.
If you are convicted of felony-level gun charges, you will be prohibited from owning or possessing a firearm in the future. A misdemeanor-level conviction may or may not affect your future ability to possess firearms.
What If You Have a Conceal Carry License?
If you have a concealed handgun permit (CHP), this may help with your charge, although you will still be held accountable for illegally carrying a firearm at a transportation facility. However, the Colorado legislature included some language to protect license holders who forget that they are carrying their firearms in restricted areas.
Regardless, if you have a concealed carry license, do not attempt to resist detainment and confiscation of your firearm, as this will not help your case. After your arrest, your attorney can evaluate how a conceal carry license could help your case.
What to do About Colorado Airport Gun Charges
After you post bail and are released from jail, you should immediately consult with a Colorado criminal defense attorney, who can help you fight your charges. Your lawyer may even be able to get your case thrown out entirely.
You can also take other proactive steps to help your case. For example, enrolling in a local gun safety program can demonstrate that you understand the severity of your action, and are taking steps to ensure that it does not happen again.
You may also receive a civil demand letter from the TSA for financial damages. TSA officials will consider the severity of your violation and send a civil demand letter asking for the amount of money they have deemed appropriate. If you receive a civil demand letter, show it to your attorney before making a payment – your lawyer may be able to get this amount reduced.
About the Author:
Denver-based criminal defense and DUI attorney Jacob E. Martinez is a knowledgeable and experienced litigator with a record of success providing innovative solutions to clients facing criminal charges of any severity. Mr. Martinez has been designated a Top 100 Trial Lawyer by the National Trial Lawyers and has been awarded both the Avvo Client’s Choice Award and Avvo Top Attorney designation, evidencing his reputation for his exemplary criminal and DUI defense work and high moral standards.