According to a recent Memphis Commercial Appeal article, eleven individuals have been charged this year with taking a firearm into the Memphis International Airport. Many, if not all of them likely were travelers who simply forgot that they left their handgun in their carry-on bag. When these travelers got to the security gate and put the bag on the machine (whoops!), the gun turned up on the scanner and they were charged. The Memphis airport, which is located off of Airways Boulevard and just south of Interstate 240 in Memphis, serves over 10 million fliers a year. It is within the jurisdiction of both Tennessee state laws and numerous federal aviation security laws. If a gun owner even accidentally takes a gun into the airport, the penalties will be stiff. In Tennessee, under Tennessee Code Annotated Section 39-17-1307, it is an offense to carry a firearm with the intent to go armed. There is an exception to this law for holders of Tennessee handgun carry permits or permits from reciprocal jurisdictions. Permit holders may carry their handgun in any place that otherwise allows guns. However, and this is an exception to the exception, under TCA 39-17-1359, any establishment may post a sign prohibiting guns, including those carried by permit holders. The Memphis airport is posted under 39-17-1359, thus carry permit holders may not bring their guns inside. Furthermore, there is another law which brings additional penalties on absent-minded gun owners. Tennessee Code Section 39-17-109 is titled “Airport and Aircraft Security.” This law makes it a crime “to knowingly trespass or unlawfully enter upon a… sterile area of an airport serving the general public, if the trespass or entry is in violation of or contrary to security requirements established by federal regulation.” Obviously bringing a gun into the airport, even if you do not mean to, is against federal regulations. What makes this law tough is that the “unlawfully enter” provision is strict liability. The state is not required to prove any culpable mental state, and merely forgetting that you still have your gun in your bag when you get to the security gate is enough to be charged. It does not matter that it is essentially a mental lapse with no criminal intent. A Memphis criminal defense lawyer should be contacted immediately if this happens to you. A violation of airport and aircraft security is a Class A misdemeanor punishable up to 11 months and 29 days. However, jail time and a permanent conviction are not likely for otherwise law abiding gun owners. If the defendant qualifies, he or she may be placed on judicial diversion for the duration of the sentence. At the end of the sentence, provided there are no violations and the conditions of probation are met, the charge will be dismissed and removed from the defendant’s record. Probation will require monthly fees and court costs, and the gun may be confiscated. Additionally, he or she will likely have to pay a fine to the Transportation Security Administration. Patrick Stegall is a Memphis gun crimes lawyer. His practice is devoted to criminal defense, including representing individuals on misdemeanor and felony weapons charges. For more information, please visit him online at https://stegall-law.com.
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