Pro-gun legislators in Florida argue that last week’s mass shooting at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport further vindicates their previous calls for quashing gun-free zones in airports.
Florida state Sen. Greg Steube and state Rep. Jake Raburn have introduced separate bills that would allow licensed gun owners with concealed carry permits to bring their firearms to the unsecured areas of their state’s airports.
Though their bills were introduced weeks before last week’s tragedy, Steube said the gunman might not have been able to kill five people and injure six others at the airport baggage claim if their laws were in effect.
“Shooters know they’re gun-free zones, and they know that law-abiding citizens aren’t present to defend themselves and that they [can] go in there and start shooting,” he told Yahoo News on Monday. Stopping such attacks, he added, is “reliant upon how quick law enforcement can get there.”
The legislation would likely face resistance from gun control advocates as well as some security experts. “I am very concerned about a weapon in this airport,” Patrick Gannon, deputy executive director for law enforcement and homeland security at Los Angeles International Airport, told the Wall Street Journal.
Suspect Esteban Santiago, a 26-year-old Iraq War veteran, appeared in court Monday to hear the federal charges against him that could result in the death penalty. Authorities said he used a 9 mm handgun that was in his checked luggage to shoot travelers before running out of ammunition and falling to the ground, where he surrendered without incident.
Santiago’s family said he suffered from mental illness after returning home from the war. Authorities said he walked into an FBI office in November accusing the government of controlling his mind and forcing him to watch Islamic State videos.
Steube, who was in the Florida’s House of Representatives for six years before moving to the Senate, has fought for years to end gun-free zones on college campuses.
His new proposal, Senate Bill 140, would affirm the right of citizens to carry handguns on college campuses, in kindergarten through 12th-grade schools, in the unsecured sections of airports and courthouses and at legislative committee meetings and local government meetings.
“Those with mental illness and terrorists specifically target locations where they know law-abiding people like myself aren’t carrying,” he said. “They go to places they know where they can do as much damage and as much terror as possible until law enforcement arrives. I don’t think that should be the law of the state.”
In the House, Raburn’s House Bill 6001 deals exclusively with allowing concealed carry permit holders to carry guns on the nonsecured side of an airport.
Both lawmakers previously spoke with the Miami Herald about their bills. Raburn told the paper that’s it’s hard to tell whether his bill would have made a difference.
“But had I been there waiting to pick up my family from the airport and had it happened near me, I would have been prepared to defend myself and my family,” he told the Herald.
According to Steube, Floridians with concealed carry permits are actually 10 times less likely to commit a crime than certified law enforcement officers. He said it’s ridiculous that people who have undergone the necessary background checks and training to carry a concealed firearm would not be allowed to take it with them when picking up family at the Fort Lauderdale airport.
“The law not permitting those from carrying at the airport sure as hell didn’t stop the criminals and the terrorists from walking in and starting shooting people,” he said. “It’s only stopping law-abiding citizens’ ability to defend themselves.”
The Florida Senate’s Judiciary Committee, which Steube chairs, was going to have a hearing on Senate Bill 140 this week, but a senator could not attend, so this was postponed until the end of January. It would need to pass through two additional committees before appearing on the floor of the full Senate.
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