There’s nothing wrong with the process.
(CNN)The shooting Friday at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport may test the bounds of something that is entirely legal and commonplace in the United States: Flying with a gun and ammunition.
The incident highlights the peculiarities and seeming contradictions of local, state and federal gun laws inside the nation’s airports: It is legal for a passenger to travel with a firearm and ammunition in checked baggage, but inside baggage claim or at a ticketing counter, that person might otherwise be breaking the law if the weapon is out in the open or carried on their person.
I fly with a gun fairly often – at least 12 or 15 times a year. The process is pretty straightforward and secure. When I check a bag, I declare to the agent that there is a firearm in my bag. The firearm must be in a locked case and unloaded. One can also include ammunition, but only in the original box. I sign an orange form verifying all of that and place the form on top of the case in my bag. I also have my cell number taped to my case in case the TSA has any questions. Long guns are a bit different because they are in their own case, but the process is basically the same.
The Indianapolis airport has an extra step where you have to take a form and give it to the TSA supervisor after security, then the supervisor calls down to make sure the bag has been checked before letting you move on. That’s the only airport I’ve been to that has that extra step, but it’s not a big deal and the TSA is usually pretty friendly about it.
That’s it. When I get to my destination, I get my bag like usual and go on my way. The firearm is never within my reach in the secure area of the airport or on the airplane.
As far as the weapon being available in the baggage area, that is true. But someone with evil intent could just as easily park outside and walk in with a gun. It is an unsecured area of the airport and even though firearms are prohibited in most airports even in the unsecured area, a sign does not prevent evil people from doing evil acts. By the way, the same is true in schools, malls, sporting venues, and other places that prohibit firearms.
The only way to possibly have prevented this would be to move the secure area to the exterior walls. This would require people to check and retrieve bags outside of the building and have TSA checks at every entrance. Not only would it be a huge additional expense and hassle, it would only move the unsecured area further out. The killer would then just attack people outside waiting for their bags.
In other words, unless we want to live in a totalitarian police state, it is impossible to prevent a determined single killer from attacking innocents. What we can do is be vigilant about the people around us and mitigate the damage by responding quickly and harshly.