Bill introduced in January 2016 would allow flyers to carry firearms in Florida airport terminals.
Florida flyers may soon be able to exercise their Second Amendment rights in airport terminals if a new bill clears both chambers of the state legislature. Senate Bill 1500, introduced by State Senator Wilton Simpson, passed through the Senate Criminal Justice Committee in a split vote and will go on to the Judiciary Committee for consideration.
The bill would strike down language in the state’s current concealed carry laws, which list Florida airports alongside police stations and schools as gun-free zones. However, flyers would only be able to carry their weapons in the areas open to the public. Weapons would not be allowed to pass through checkpoints and into the secured area of the airport. According to the bill’s author, it was introduced as a measure to ensure personal safety in light of the numerous threats against airports.
“When you see that there are lots of terroristic threats around airports and security around airports,” Simpson said to the Florida Times-Union, “and it seems to me that when you have 100 million visitors come through the state of Florida at some level, this is one of those areas we need to address.”
Opponents of the bill claim that allowing flyers to carry weapons in the non-sterile parts of the airport would only add even more stress to the tense condition of flying. Airport administrators argue that more access to weapons in airports may create a bigger hazard.
“Obviously the good person there has been trained,” Michael Steward, director of the Jacksonville Airport Authority, told the Florida Times-Union. “But when someone else sees someone with a weapon… the introduction of a weapon could be a problem.”
In 2015, the Transportation Security Administration discovered 2,653 firearms in flyers’ carry-on luggage, an increase of nearly 20 percent compared to 2014. Of those weapons, the agency claims 83 percent were loaded. The Florida state bill must clear two more committee hearings before being considered for a vote.
[Photo: George Frey/Reuters]