Airport security is tight in a post-9/11 world, and with the holiday season just around the bend, security measures are bound to get even stricter. If you’re flying out of JFK for the holidays, and you’re planning on bringing a firearm, you should know about New York City’s laws for traveling with guns – because if you don’t, you could find yourself facing serious criminal charges. Our Queens gun crime lawyers explain some of New York City’s laws about traveling with firearms.
Men Arrested for Bringing Loaded Weapons to John F. Kennedy International Airport
There are multiple instances of travelers unlawfully bringing firearms to John F. Kennedy International Airport.
In April, TSA officers stopped a Wallkill man from taking a loaded semi-automatic handgun onto a flight. The gun, which had a bullet in each of its 10 chambers, was detected by an X-ray machine as the man attempted to pass through security. Port Authority Police placed the man under arrest.
A similar story played out in September, when, using an X-ray scanner, TSA officers detected a loaded 9 mm gun containing 15 bullets inside another man’s carry-on bag. The man was subsequently arrested and charged with criminal possession of a weapon, one of the many weapons crimes listed under Article 265 of the NY Penal Law.
Just before Election Day, Georgia resident Zachary Hamilton was prevented from bringing a Glock pistol onto a plane departing JFK. Though the Glock had been legally purchased in Georgia, Hamilton was arrested for criminal possession of a firearm, a Class E felony that can lead to up to four years in prison, not to mention costly fines as high as $5,000.
These are just a few examples of the numerous cases where passengers have attempted to bring guns into JFK Airport. In fact, just this August, the airport had to be evacuated after gunfire was reported.
New York City Gun Laws: Does Your Permit Allow Interstate Firearms Transportation?
After the tragedy of 9/11, it isn’t hard to see why bringing loaded weapons onto airplanes would be prohibited. But what about law-abiding travelers who, for example, intend to go hunting when they reach their destination? In short, is it legal to bring a gun to JFK Airport if you take the appropriate steps?
Technically speaking, the answer is yes. To quote a TSA press release issued in February, “Transportation Security Administration officers detect an average of more than seven firearms at checkpoints per day across the nation in 2015, many of those instances resulting in arrests, citations and the confiscation of the guns. But it doesn’t have to be like that if passengers properly pack and declare their firearms.”
However, as the press release then goes on to say, “Firearm possession laws vary by state and locality. TSA advises travelers to do a little homework before they plan to fly with their firearm. Travelers should familiarize themselves with state and local firearm laws for each point of travel prior to departure to ensure that they have the proper gun permits for the states that they are traveling to and from.”
That means familiarizing yourself with gun laws in New York City, which, it is critical to emphasize, are often sharply divergent from – and much stricter than – gun laws in other parts of New York.
For example, you do not need a permit to purchase a “long gun” (meaning a shotgun or rifle) in New York State, but you do need a permit in New York City. To give another example, all guns must be registered in New York City, whereas only handguns (which do not qualify as long guns) need be registered in other parts of the state.
It’s also very difficult to obtain a New York City handgun permit in the first place. Many of the permits issued, called Premises Licenses, are restricted licenses that require the permit holders to keep their guns at the address specified on the license. The gun and its ammunition need to be kept in separate, locked boxes if they are going to be transported, and may be transported only to specific, pre-approved hunting areas and shooting ranges within New York. A Premises License does not authorize you to bring your gun out of state, so even if the TSA and FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) don’t necessarily ban you from traveling with unloaded weapons, New York City’s strict gun laws do.
Moreover, the airlines themselves have their own restrictive policies on traveling with guns. For example, here is a direct quote from JetBlue’s firearms and ammunition policy:
“If checking a firearm, you must be at least 18 years of age. All firearms must be unloaded and declared by reading and signing the Firearms Unloaded Declaration tag before checking the container. The firearm must be packed in a lockable crush-proof container specifically designed for the firearm, and in a separate container from any ammunition. If the firearm case cannot be locked, JetBlue will not accept the item.”
JetBlue does not permit any guns onboard the aircraft, concealed or not, unless you are a law enforcement officer. Even then, some additional criteria apply. For instance, if you work at the municipal, county, or state level, you must be on-duty. Only federal LEOs may bring a weapon onboard while off-duty.
As a final word of caution, the Firearm Owners Protection Act (FOPA), which is found at 18 U.S. Code § 926A, normally allows gun owners to “transport a firearm for any lawful purpose from any place where he [or she] may lawfully possess and carry such firearm to any other place where he [or she] may lawfully possess and carry such firearm,” provided the weapon is unloaded, the ammo is inaccessible, and the weapon is inaccessible. However, FOPA is not recognized by the New York State Police.
Arrested for Gun Possession at JFK? Contact Our Queens Weapons Crimes Lawyers
Nearly a dozen firearms were confiscated at John F. Kennedy International Airport in 2015, up sharply from five the year before. If you were arrested for bringing a gun to JFK, you need a highly experienced Queens concealed weapon lawyer on your side. New York City has some of the most restrictive gun laws in the nation, and it is easy for even law-abiding, well-intentioned citizens who are responsible gun owners to find themselves faced with serious criminal charges.
Count on the experienced Queens defense lawyers at Sullivan & Galleshaw for aggressive legal representation. For a free and confidential legal consultation, call our law offices at (800) 730-0135.