Thursday, May 24, 2018
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.

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