COMMENTARY: The Importance of Rational Protocols for the Carriage of Handguns on Commercial Flights.
By: Charles G. Slepian, Esq.
Foreseeable Risk Analysis Center, LLC
New York and Portland
I support the Second Amendment and the right of eligible adults to possess and carry concealed handguns. I also believe that all of our constitutional rights are not absolute and are subject to reasonable regulations in the public interest. I am making that statement in anticipation of being branded an opponent of the right to keep and bare arms. What I propose is a necessary regulation on the carrying of firearms by unauthorized passengers aboard in airports and aboard commercial flights. Some years ago, I wrote a commentary titled “Give Pilots Guns” in support of the notion that armed pilots might have prevented the 9/11 hijackings. I still believe that armed pilots are a reasonable concept for the reasons I set forth in my commentary found on the link provided below even though the development of reinforced flight deck doors has reduced the ability to penetrate those doors. However, arming pilots is the not the purpose of this commentary, which is written in support of protecting the legitimate right to transport personal firearms and ammunition in commercial aviation and making it more difficult for a deranged passenger from recovering his firearm and killing fellow passengers shopping or having a meal or simply waiting to retrieve their bags from the carousel.
Regulating civil liberties has always been a contentious area of law, whether it is abortion rights, the death penalty, or the Second Amendment. However, the issue of how to observe the right to self-defense or to defend others including our families, friends, neighbors and community’s from the scourge of violent crime, remains an enigma for our political leaders. Perhaps it is indeed time to “drain the swamp” of politics and to deal with the question of how to develop transparent protocols for dealing with real world issues; and high on the list is providing effective security without unnecessary assaults on liberty.
All of the facts surrounding the tragedy of the murder of five and the wounding of eight other passengers at the Ft. Lauderdale International Airport by a single deranged man armed with a handgun and three clips of bullets are not yet in. In the face of 8 killed, 13 terrorized and thousands traumatized watching on television another deranged gunman known to the Army Reserve and National Guard that discharged him for the good of the service; to the local office of the FBI to whom he complained that intelligence agencies had gotten into is brain and were forcing him to listen to terrorist propaganda; and to the TSA that apparently allowed him to check in his firearm for a flight from Alaska to South Florida and no other baggage. Upon the return of his gun and ammunition locked inside a container to which only he had the keys, it has been reported he loaded his weapon in a lavatory and then exited and began his shooting spree targeting passengers awaiting the return of their baggage from the carousel.
As I watched former federal law enforcement officers on a live news report last night speculating over motives and what might have been done to avert today’s carnage, the protocols for passenger carried handguns into airports and aboard airliners were not addressed. And while the issue of the shooters motives is relevant to why he committed this massacre in an airport thousands of miles from his home, how he retrieved his gun while still inside the airport is more relevant to the prevention of similar acts in the future.
Common sense and history dictate that passengers not have access to firearms in airports and on airliners except pursuant to reasonable rules regarding law enforcement, Homeland Security policy and exceptions found in special circumstances concerning armed pilots, local law enforcement needs and local airport regulations. Travelers on the other hand, may have their legal weapons checked in for flights on which they are traveling but the check-in process and return of checked firearms needs to occur outside of terminals and other buildings reserved for general passenger or public use.
In the decades after World War 2 and the 1988 terrorist attack on Pan Am 103, hijackings and bombings aboard commercial airliners worldwide numbered in the hundreds. Sometimes these acts were terrorist inspired and others undertaken for myriad criminal reasons. Airport security before the establishment of the Transportation Security Agency under the Department of Homeland Security 2001 was inconsistent and ineffective across America with security a shared function among federal agencies such as the FAA; local law enforcement usually a function of local or state port authorities and airlines who were responsible for the hiring and funding for terminal and gate security to be carried out by private security companies. Despite the seriousness of the threat and the inability to establish reasonable security protocols to combat the foreseeable risks manifest in commercial aviation, it took the 9/11disaster to force the federal government to develop a unified policy to secure passenger security not only for American air travel but also for much of the western world. The Ft. Lauderdale airport disaster may provide the impetus to raise airport security to a new level, one in which sound protocols will protect passenger rights to transport their weapons with them when in air travel together with the need to protect air travelers as they congregate in airports from the unnecessary availability of firearms.
See: Give Pilots Guns: http://www.frac.com/give-pilots-guns/