Thursday, December 14, 2017
Opinion

Ruth: Don't allow guns in Florida airports

Do you ever get the impression that those rip-snorting, rootin'-tootin' yahoos in the Florida Legislature won't be satisfied until they pass a law that requires every infant in the state be issued a birth certificate and a concealed weapons permit before the little dickens utters the first yowl?

The blood was barely dry at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport before Sen. Greg Steube, R-Sarasota, and Rep. Jake Raburn, R-Lithia, were insisting that their plan to turn airport terminals into the Deadwood of travel is still a swell idea.

Steube and Raburn have introduced bills for the coming legislative session, otherwise known as a lobbyist bacchanalia of influence-peddling, which would allow some 1.7 million people with concealed carry gun permits to move freely through airport terminals while armed.

Now a smidgen of common sense, not to mention common decency, suggests that last week's shooting in the baggage claim area of the Fort Lauderdale airport — in which five people were murdered and six others wounded during a rampage by a suspect who is reportedly mentally disturbed — might have given Steube and Raburn just a moment to pause and reflect on the, ahem, downside of allowing weapons to be carried into airport terminals.

According to police, Esteban Santiago, who had flown from Alaska to Fort Lauderdale, checked his weapon before his flight, recovered it in baggage claim, loaded it in a lavatory and then started blasting away before he was eventually arrested.

The predicate for the lawmakers' desire to turn the ticket-counter experience into a "Do you feel lucky? Well, do ya punk?" moment is grounded in flimsy illogic.

Steube told the Times/Herald Tallahassee bureau's Kristen M. Clark he is merely attempting to safeguard the Second Amendment rights of "law-abiding citizens" to protect themselves, forgetting that trained law enforcement officers are supposed to do that.

But the problem with all this "law-abiding citizen" palaver is it assumes those 1.7 million gun-packing Floridians are Atticus Finch meets Dirty Harry — cool and calm under pressure and always blessed with perfect aim.

Until last week's airport shootings, Santiago was in the eyes of the law one of those "law-abiding citizens." Pay no mind he recently told FBI agents in Alaska he was hearing voices to join ISIS and kill people. Pay no mind he believed the CIA had planted a device in his head. Pay no mind he had briefly been admitted for psychiatric evaluation. But pay plenty of mind that after all the dire warning signs that Santiago was a ticking time bomb, he was given his gun back and legally permitted to travel with it to Florida.

Raburn offered up the dithering reason that 44 other states already permit guns in airport terminals. How nice for them. But Raburn forgets this is Florida — the crazy-as-a-loon capital of the world. Or consider that of all 50 states, "law-abiding citizen" Santiago opted to travel from the distant reaches of the United States to Florida to stop being such a lovely "law-abiding citizen."

Do Steube or Raburn believe that a state so dependent on tourism and family-friendly hospitality is going to appeal to visitors, especially foreign travelers who come from cultures where guns aren't so ubiquitous, who suddenly find themselves next to a Ramboesque goober at the luggage check-in line?

Active crime scenes are incredibly kinetic. Even if Steube or Raburn had been present during the Fort Lauderdale shootings, amid all the screams, gunfire, panic and chaos, would they have even known whom to shoot?

The fawning homage to the National Rifle Association of allowing private citizens to be armed in airport terminals is just the latest, but hardly the last, loopy weapons legislation making its way through the Legislature.

Once more, efforts are under way to permit guns on university campuses, even though vast numbers of school officials, faculty and law enforcement remain vehemently opposed — and invariably ignored.

That only makes sense. After all, aren't all these gun owners "law-abiding citizens"? Until they're not.

Comments
Editorial: Rubio should make good his threat to oppose tax cuts without changes

Editorial: Rubio should make good his threat to oppose tax cuts without changes

For once, it would be nice to see Sen. Marco Rubio stand up as the independent leader he aspires to become. For once, the Florida Republican should hold his position rather than bow to pragmatic politics. Rubio can stick with his threat Thursday to v...
Updated: 8 hours ago

Another voice: A shameful anniversary

Josephine "Joey" Gay should have celebrated her 12th birthday this week. She should have been surrounded by friends and family in a place festooned with purple, her favorite color.Chase Kowalski should have been working toward a Boy Scout merit badge...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Editorial: Congress should block efforts to expand offshore drilling

Editorial: Congress should block efforts to expand offshore drilling

Timing is everything, and Sen. Bill Nelson seized the right moment this week to call on his colleagues to pass legislation he filed earlier this year that would block the Trump administration from opening additional areas to offshore drilling. With t...
Published: 12/13/17

Another voice: Alabama picks an honorable man

THANK YOU, Alabama.In Tuesday’s special election, the state by a narrow margin chose to spare the nation the indignity of seating an accused child molester in the U.S. Senate. Though the stain of electing Republican Roy Moore would have sullied Alaba...
Published: 12/12/17
Updated: 12/13/17
Editorial: Tax cuts aren’t worth harm to Tampa Bay

Editorial: Tax cuts aren’t worth harm to Tampa Bay

As congressional negotiators hammer out the details on an enormous, unnecessary tax cut, the potential negative impact on Tampa Bay and Florida is becoming clearer. The harmful consequences stretch far beyond adding more than $1.4 trillion to the fed...
Published: 12/12/17

Another voice: Privacy in the internet age

How much information about you is on your cellphone? Likely the most intimate details of your life: photographs, internet searches, text and email conversations with friends and colleagues. And though you might not know it, your phone is constantly c...
Published: 12/10/17
Updated: 12/11/17
Editorial: Grand jury could force reforms of juvenile justice system

Editorial: Grand jury could force reforms of juvenile justice system

Confronted with documentation of sanctioned brutality and sexual abuse in Florida’s juvenile detention centers, the reaction from Gov. Rick Scott’s administration was defensive and obtuse. So it’s welcome news that Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine...
Published: 12/08/17
Updated: 12/11/17

Editorial: U.S. House sides with NRA over state’s rights on concealed weapons permits

With the horror of the mass shootings at a Las Vegas country music concert and a small Texas church still fresh, the U.S. House finally has taken action on guns. But the bill it passed last week won’t make Americans safer from gun violence. It is an ...
Published: 12/07/17
Editorial: Hillsborough cannot afford pay raises for teachers

Editorial: Hillsborough cannot afford pay raises for teachers

There is no satisfaction for anyone in the standoff over pay raises between the Hillsborough County School District and its teachers. Most teachers across the nation already are underpaid, but this district simply cannot afford the raises teachers ex...
Published: 12/07/17
Editorial: Impact of Water Street project extends beyond buildings

Editorial: Impact of Water Street project extends beyond buildings

With a buildout of $3 billion encompassing entire city blocks, it’s obvious that Jeff Vinik’s plans will change the look and feel of downtown Tampa. But the Tampa Bay Lightning owner unveiled a broader vision last week that reflects how far the impac...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/08/17