(Article changed on September 10, 2013 at 17:01)
Thanks to Conceal Carry, Open Carry and home rule overrides that allow guns near schools and parks, the gun lobby is "normalizing" everyday citizen armament and making a gun like a cell phone. You better carry a gun at all times, is the thinking, because you never know when you may have to kill on the way to work or running errands.
Univer$al armament is a dream for the NRA and the gun manufacturers it hucksters for but it is a nightmare for the Transportation Security Administration. TSA seized 1,556 guns at US airports last year, reports the New York Times and this year looks like it will be even worse. Despite clear TSA rules that "travelers may only transport UNLOADED firearms in a locked, hard-sided container in or as checked baggage" and "all firearms, ammunition and firearm parts, including firearm frames and receivers, are prohibited in carry-on baggage," clueless armed gun lovers increasingly throng airports. Which part of "prohibited" do they not understand?
By last month, TSA had seized 67 guns at Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson airport since the start of the year, putting it ahead of Dallas-Fort Worth International in passengers trying to pack. This week, Orlando International surpassed Tampa International Airport with 29 confiscated guns, ninety percent of the packers being from the Gunshine state. Orlando police want to ring terminal entrances to ticket counters and departing flights with signs that weapons are not allowed--as well as off-site parking, shuttles and private park-and-ride services. The ban applies to Florida's aggressive conceal carriers, too, as in "George Zimmerman."
Because they have become neo-cells, many carriers simply "forget" they are carrying a gun. William Henry Murphy III, the bishop of an Atlanta church "forgot" about his 9-millimeter handgun and tried to sneak it through security rather than "store it" with his toothbrush. Recently, Shemane Nugent, wife of gun extremist Ted Nugent, "forgot" she had a Smith and Wesson .38 Special revolver in her carry-on bag with five rounds and 10 additional rounds in a side pocket at Dallas/Fort Worth Airport. Her lawyer called it an "honest mistake." Late last year, State Sen. Donne Trotter attempted to board a plane at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport with an unloaded .25 caliber pistol and bullets he also "forgot." Oops.
Robert Spitzer, a professor at the State University of New York, is skeptical of the "I forgot" excuse, likening it to the remarks frequently heard from "somebody who walks out of a store with an unpaid-for item in their pocket."
"Bringing a loaded weapon into a crowded checkpoint is a serious matter," TSA spokeswoman Sari Koshetz told the Orlando Sentinel "Sometimes passengers literally throw their carry-on suitcase onto the X-ray belt and an accidental discharge could be tragic!" Accidental discharges, in addition to killing passengers and crew members, can cause structural damage and in, certain cases, go through the plane's fuselage causing everyone to be ejected from the plane due to explosive decompression.
What is the punishment for attempting to carry a loaded gun on board an aircraft? Unlike a drunk driver who can lose his license and face jail time, gun owners are not licensed to begin with--so there is no license to lose. Instead, they are subject to state law and in many states their gun is returned with no hard feelings. If the state or jurisdiction where the airport is located has tolerant gun laws, TSA screeners will actually hand the gun back to the passenger and recommend finding a safe place to store it. Thanks for that!