The nation is in shock after a deranged man shot and killed five innocent people and wounded six others at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport in Florida on Friday.
In the aftermath, mainstream media outlets asked first how the shooter was able to have a firearm in the baggage claim area of the airport, and then nitpicked the TSA procedures for traveling by air with firearms, something that’s carried out without incident thousands of times a day. Regardless, the fact remains that baggage claim areas are outside of security checkpoints—and are designated gun-free zones in Florida.
However, there have been scant few reports examining bills filed in the state legislature weeks ago that would allow the state’s 1.7 million residents with CCW permits to carry concealed in airport passenger terminals. The shooter was able to fire his gun empty at random travelers before he dropped it and lay down, allowing police to take him into custody.
State Sen. Greg Steube and state Rep. Jake Raburn, both Republicans, filed the bills weeks ago as a matter of allowing “lawfully abiding citizens” to protect themselves, even while picking up loved ones from the airport, and that they weren’t inspired by any particular event, according to this story from bradenton.com.
Raburn says in the story that “it’s hard to say” if the bill, if it were law at the time of the airport shooting, would have made a difference, but added that 44 states already allow guns to be carried in airport terminals. To clarify, this means CCW permit holders would be allowed to carry in parts of airport terminals outside the secure area that is guarded by metal detectors and x-ray machines.
Currently, Florida law prevents carry permit holders from carrying in airport terminals, schools, colleges, courtrooms, bars, meetings of legislators and several other locations.
“There’s always the potential—if it were allowed and there were someone in that area that had a concealed weapon—that it could have gone differently,” Raburn said in the story. “I’m not going to say that it would have, because my understanding is we’re talking about a span of time that’s less than a minute. It may not have changed anything.”
“But had I been there waiting to pick up my family from the airport and it happened near me, I would have been prepared to defend myself and my family,” he said in the story.
In this story from the Sun-Sentinel, Raburn said, “I do personally feel like had this bill been in place already, there could have been the potential for people to protect themselves in that situation.”
The story says Steube (R-Sarasota) is “a passionate advocate for gun owners’ rights. He has repeatedly said that gun-free zones ‘don’t work’ and that ‘law-abiding citizens’ should be able to exercise their Second Amendment rights with fewer restrictions.”
The Sun-Sentinel story says U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who headed up the Democratic National Committee during the presidential election until she resigned amidst a scandal, said people simply shouldn’t be allowed to travel with guns in their checked bags.
“We need to review not only the question of whether people should be able to travel with their firearms even if they’re in checked baggage, but I think we need to take a hard look at the security around baggage claim areas and not just leave it at that,” she said in the story. “There are many unsecure areas in facilities that the public travels — train stations, port terminals, and baggage claim areas, so certainly those procedures need to be reviewed and I’m going to be addressing that when I go back to Washington.”
To be clear, nothing would have prevented the shooter from walking into the baggage terminal off the street with a firearm and killing innocents.
Even the Sun-Sentinel story says Schultz’s suggested changes “might not have much effect. Even a ban on firearms aboard planes—currently limited to checked baggage—would not prevent someone from entering an airport terminal with a gun.”
The story says the TSA has no official position on the carrying of firearms in the unsecured area of the airport and that it’s “not within our purview,” according to a spokesperson.
While Raburn’s bill and Steube’s bill are not companion legislation, they have similar goals, though Steube’s would allow carrying of firearms at government meetings, schools, and colleges, as well as permit open carry, which is currently prohibited.
“While I have supported the other bills that are rolled into Sen. Steube’s package, this was the one that was most important to me,” Raburn said. “I carry my weapon wherever I go, but I travel a lot and it’s something I’ve thought about a lot as I have to comply with the law.”
When someone is set on harming others for no apparent reason, there’s often very little anyone can do but react, as pointed out by Broward Sheriff Scott Israel in the story, who is conversely against the idea of licensed citizens carrying in airports to protect themselves.
“When you have a person that could be suffering from a severe mental illness, or you have what we call a lone wolf assassin that’s ready to conduct some cowardly, heinous act, there’s not much law enforcement or anybody else can do about it,” Israel said in the story.
However, of concealed carry in airports and schools, Israel said, “It makes us less safe, as it would hinder law enforcement by legally allowing potential active shooters to openly carry their deadly weapons right into airports to carry out their heinous attacks.”
It appears that’s what happened on Friday, regardless of the current state laws.