Bringing a weapon to the airport unintentionally can happen. Often people are in a rush and forget to remove a weapon they usually carry with them from their bag. Others bring a weapon to the airport under the belief that they are legally allowed to do so. Unfortunately, this can lead to unintended legal consequences, whether you have a license to carry the concealed weapon or not.
Under Florida law, even individuals with a Florida concealed weapons permit are not authorized to carry a concealed weapon or firearm the inside of the passenger terminal and sterile area of any airport. Under TSA guidelines, a person may carry a legal firearm that is encased in a locked container, unloaded, and declared to TSA, to be transported in a checked bag. Any individual with a concealed weapons permit who violates this law can be charged with a second-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to sixty days in jail and fines. While an individual could be taken into custody by law enforcement for this offense, officers have the discretion to possibly issue a notice to appear in court and then let the individual continue with catching their flight. Other places that individuals with concealed weapons permits are not allowed to carry firearms include police stations, courthouses, jails, polling places, schools, colleges, and universities.
If an individual brings a firearm or weapon into an airport the consequences can be even more severe. If an individual brings a concealed firearm into the airport, or any other public place, without a concealed weapons permit it is a third-degree felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison and fines. Bringing a concealed weapon that is not a firearm into the airport is a first-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail and fines.
In September of 2018, rapper Plies was arrested on felony charges at the Tampa International Airport when a handgun was found in his carry-on bag. The weapon was unloaded with a loaded clip located in another section of the bag. The rapper is a Florida native and purchased the firearm from a local pawn shop. He did not have a license to carry a concealed weapon and according to the airport police chief, he likely would not have been arrested if he had one, even though he violated Florida law by carrying the weapon into an airport terminal.
In October of 2018, a pilot was arrested at the Southwest Florida International Airport for having a loaded handgun in his carry-on bag. When the handgun was discovered by TSA agents, he said that he had forgotten that the weapon was in the bag. The pilot was a resident of Minnesota and had a license to carry concealed weapons issued to him in that state, but Florida does not honor Minnesota licenses, so the pilot was carrying without one. The pilot’s arrest resulted in the flight being canceled and the passengers being forced to spend an additional night in Orlando.
Given the severity of the consequences for these charges, anyone charged with a weapons offense should consult with an experienced attorney to explore their possible legal defenses.