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Carrying Concealed Weapons


Complying with the Law
by Patricia Strutz

No Firearms or Weapons

A few years back, I received a permit to carry concealed weapons (CCW). I had questions about how CCW impacts private pilots, so I contacted aviation attorneys, AOPA, FAA, TSA, and airport security directors. Time and again I hit the wall. I was relayed information that related solely to commercial flights. I heard, “I haven’t researched that information,” and, “Many private pilots carry concealed weapons. Just don’t tell anyone and it isn’t a problem.”

Enter attorney Ms. Alexandria Chris Kinkaid. Her firm, 3G Law, helps people plan for and protect their estates, assets, businesses, and firearms, 866-505-2773, She has developed the unique niche practice of firearms law, due to her own love of firearms and her background as a criminal law prosecutor. Kinkaid explains, “I am well-versed in gun laws. They are complex and must be deciphered under federal, state, and local laws, so I’m not surprised you’re having trouble getting the answers you seek. The easy answer on CCW is that they are subject to state laws.

The following conversation sheds light on this topic:

Q: Where is CCW info in the FARs?

A: There isn’t any. CCW is a product of state law. Requirements under 49.USC46505 impose criminal penalty for carrying a gun in air transportation—common carrier only—not a private pilot in their own aircraft.

Q: I thought airports would be under federal regulations?

A: Federal law restricts carrying in secure areas. Federal law determines whether you can have a gun at all and what type of gun, but states regulate the details of CCW. States can only enact gun control laws that don’t directly conflict with federal laws. Because there is a federal law that describes how the transportation on airlines must take place, the state’s CCW laws do not override the federal firearms transportation laws.

Q: So, a private pilot flying his own aircraft (not for hire) flies into an airport. He taxis over to the FBO, gets fuel, and ties down on their ramp. He is a permitted, CCW holder from a state that shares reciprocity with the landing airport’s state. Is he legal?

A: I look at several different points:

*Type of gun: Federal and state laws restrict certain weapons.

*Is the person legal? Certain people can’t be in possession of firearms, either under state laws or the federal Gun Control Act.

*Type of carry: Is he following CCW state law? Some have open carry, some concealed carry.

*Specific Location: There are certain places you cannot be. You can’t be in a federal facility where federal employees congregate. So, you can’t be in the secure areas of the airport.

Q: You mentioned that local regulations might govern areas of the airport, too.

A: States differ whether they allow political subdivisions (cities, counties, etc.) to adopt firearm laws. Idaho generally doesn’t allow this (with certain exceptions), but Oregon allows cities and counties to adopt ordinances to regulate, restrict, or prohibit the possession of loaded firearms in public places (ORS 166.173). Public places include premises used in connection with public passenger transportation. Thus, an Oregon airport may be subject to a restriction on firearms.

The laws of each location must actually be checked. Is this onerous for gun owners? Of course it is. There are many ways to break the law when you carry a gun. There are over 20,000 gun laws on the books across the county. My practice focuses on avoiding the “accidental felony”: people who unintentionally break the law.

Q: What if I’m given instructions to taxi through a secured area?

A: You can’t be in a federally secured area with a CCW. You cannot accept a clearance to taxi into that area; it would be a violation of law. You can ask for instructions on how to taxi to the FBO to avoid secured areas, though that may sound like an odd request. If you’re unsure about the area, the best bet would be to disassemble and lock the gun up.

Q: What if a pilot has an emergency and needs to land in a state where their CCW permit isn’t valid? It would be difficult to unload the weapon and lock it up during an emergency landing.

A: There are no exceptions for emergencies. Most state criminal laws allow defendants in a criminal case an affirmative defense if there is an emergency. You can still be charged, but you may have the opportunity to prove to a jury of your peers that you had no choice but to land.

Q: A privately owned FBO I fly into has a sign posted that says “no firearms beyond this point.” Please explain the legalities.

A: For private property, you aren’t breaking the law unless they ask you to leave and you refuse. Then you are charged with trespassing. The FBO is not governed by federal law.

Q: I’ve heard you must first be notified that no guns are allowed. Doesn’t the posted sign serve as that notification? If so, you’d be breaking the law simply by entering with a CCW.

A: If you saw the sign and stated such, possibly. Though I’ve never seen this happen. The normal course is that someone becomes aware that you have a gun and asks you to leave. If you refuse, law enforcement is called.

Q: I fly out of an airport where the FBO is on the other side of the runways from the common terminal area. To access the GA ramp, I must enter a locked gate; the FBO buzzes me in. I figure that the ramp in front of the FBO is their area: private and not secured federally. If the fenced area goes around the entire airport, is it a federally secured area?

A: You need to ask: Is this a sterile area? If not, does the state have restrictions? Is your CCW permit recognized? Are there local ordinances that apply?

[Author’s note: I asked the airport’s security operations supervisor. He didn’t know and said this question was out of his jurisdiction.]

Q: How do we familiarize ourselves with firearm laws for each point of travel?

A: Speak with a qualified firearms attorney who is familiar with the laws in the subject jurisdiction. The website shows states sharing CCW permit reciprocity and details state laws, though they aren’t always 100 percent accurate. And, the state attorney general’s website should list information on their regulations.

Q: What about passengers flying along with the pilot-in-command?

A: Since it’s a private flight, not chartered or commercial, the same CCW state laws apply to them.

After learning all of the above, I’ve decided to disassemble my firearm and lock it up until after leaving the airport premises. To unintenionally break the law seems quite plausible, and I figure the airport is one of the safest places around anyway.

Concealed carry or carrying a concealed weapon (CCW), is the practice of carrying a weapon (such as a handgun) in public in a concealed manner, either on one's person or in close proximity. Not all weapons that fall under CCW laws are lethal. For example, in Florida, carrying pepper spray in more than a specified volume (2 oz.) of chemical requires a CCW permit, whereas anyone may legally carry a smaller, “self-defense chemical spray” device hidden on their person without a CCW permit. As of 2017 there have been 16.3 million concealed weapon permits issued in the United States.
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What a headache. I'm a new CFI and wanted to find a little bit more about CCW while flying and to be honest this situation seems like a nightmare. I don't expect anything to happen in the airplane but you really never know. Anyways it seems smarter to just leave the weapon in the car. You're right the airport is generally a safe place but local FBOs doesn't have much security beyond a fence. I always am surprised that no one has gone into a local airport and steal a plane since some of them do not require a key to start.

An individual who is age 18 or older and is licensed to hunt, trap or fish, or who has been issued a permit relating to hunting dogs, may apply for a Sportsman's Firearm Permit by submitting a completed application along with the required fee to the county treasurer's office. The permit shall be issued immediately and be valid throughout this Commonwealth for a period of five years from the date of issue for any "legal firearm", when carried in conjunction with a valid hunting, furtaking or fishing license, or permit relating to hunting dogs. The issuances of a Sportsman’s Firearm Permit allows the individual to carry a firearm if such persons are actually hunting, taking furbearers, fishing or training dogs, or are going to the places where they desire to hunt, take furbearers, fish, or train dogs during the regular training season, or returning from such places. A Sportsman's Firearm Permit is NOT a License to Carry a firearm concealed.
For hunting. Youn can see more in

If there isn't a law restricting a thing it is, by default, permitted. This area of law is confusing because it isn't thought of very often. I carry in my plane, on FBO ramps, in FBO buildings, in crew cars, etc., except in states or locations where it is forbidden to do so. I even often travel with my AR-15.

The attorney wasn't quite correct about posted buildings. In some states proper posting makes it illegal to carry into. For example, the Citation Service Center in Wichita KS is properly posted at all normal entrances and it is illegal (state law) to carry into their facility.

For travel I rely heavily on, and on my iPad and iPhone I use the LegalHeat app.

I would agree. In Michigan, if a private business posts no weapons. That by itself serves notice. If you caught disregarding that notice you expose yourself to legal implications (trespass at a minimum)

Wouldn't this be a ridiculous topic regarding general aviation in Alaska?
I would love to hear that argument at an Alaskan FBO.

Much of Alaska flying is from strips with no security. Many private planes are based off private property on lakes or on unsecured airstrips.