Railroad passengers on Amtrak should soon be able to once again transport firearms in checked baggage. The change is slated to begin on Dec. 15, the effective date of the amendment by Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., that forced Amtrak to accommodate gun owners. The new service will only be available between stations where checked baggage service is currently available.
As when transporting guns on a commercial airline flight, gun owners should pack firearms unloaded and in a locked, hard-sided container. Ammunition should be stored in a manufacturer’s box or in “fiber, wood, or metal boxes … or in other packaging specifically designed to carry small amounts of ammunition.” Unlike airlines, Amtrak also requires handgun cases to be stored inside a suitcase or other checked bag.
Also unique to Amtrak is a requirement (forced by a last-minute change to the amendment) that travelers notify Amtrak of their intention to transport firearms, at least 24 hours before departure. Notification must be by phone (not online), and firearms must still be declared upon check-in.
No matter how seemingly modest the change, and despite Amtrak’s unique restrictions, it’s still too much for anti-gun activists. In a story on ABCNews.com, Brady Center attorney Daniel Vice claimed, “the baggage car’s not secure like a cargo hold of an airplane.” Amtrak spokesman Steve Kulm rebutted the hysterical claim, noting that the rail service modified 142 baggage cars “to provide a secure, safe location for the firearms.”
With airport security and airline baggage fees becoming more burdensome by the week, rail travel may become more appealing to shooters and hunters. Travelers with questions should call Amtrak at 1-800-USA-RAIL or visit www.amtrak.com.
- Notification that the passenger will be checking firearms/ammunition must be made no later than 24 hours before train departure by calling Amtrak at 800-USA-RAIL. Online reservations for firearms/ammunition are not accepted.
- All firearms and/or ammunition must be checked at least 30 minutes prior to train departure. Some larger stations require that baggage be checked earlier.
- All firearms (rifles, shotguns, handguns, starter pistols) must be unloaded and in an approved, locked hard-sided container not exceeding 62″ L x 17″ W x 7″ D (1575 mm x 432 mm x 178 mm). The passenger must have sole possession of the key or the combination for the lock to the container. The weight of the container may not exceed 50 lb/23 kg.
- Smaller locked, hard-sided containers containing smaller unloaded firearms such as handguns and starter pistols must be securely stored within a suitcase or other item of checked baggage, but the existence of such a firearm must be declared.
- All ammunition carried must be securely packed in the original manufacturer’s container; in fiber, wood, or metal boxes; or in other packaging specifically designed to carry small amounts of ammunition. The maximum weight of all ammunition and containers may not exceed 11 lb/5 kg.
- The passenger is responsible for knowing and following all federal, state, and local firearm laws at all jurisdictions to and through which he or she will be travelling.
- All other Amtrak checked baggage policies apply, including limits on the number of pieces of checked baggage, the maximum weight of each piece (50 lb/23 kg).
- Firearms/ammunition may not be carried in carry-on baggage; therefore, checked baggage must be available on all trains and at all stations in the passenger’s itinerary.
- At the time of check-in, passengers will be required to complete and sign a two-part Declaration Form.
- BB guns and Compressed Air Guns (to include paintball markers), are to be treated as firearms and must comply with the above firearms policy. Canisters, tanks, or other devices containing propellants must be emptied prior to checking and securely packaged within the contents of the passenger’s luggage.
Notice: Passengers failing to meet the above-mentioned requirements for checking firearms will be denied transportation.