Airport Carry Legislation Passes First Senate Panel

Feb 16, 2016

Credit Josh Hallett via wikimedia commons

Florida’s Legislature has considered a number of high profile gun measures this session, but with most of them seemingly dead in the Senate, another proposal is getting its first hearing.  Airports may have to allow concealed weapons in terminals.

Campus carry. 

Open carry.

Airport carry? 

The first two measures appear dead for the 2016 session with Senate Judiciary Chair Miguel Diaz De La Portilla (R-Miami) refusing—at least for now—to bring them up for a vote.  But Sen. Wilton Simpson’s (R-Trilby) airport carry legislation is just beginning its journey, and it’s not like his plan is unprecedented.

Just have a look at American Hero John McClane in 1990’s Die Hard 2.

But in all seriousness, Simpson explains there’s real world precedent for his plan, too.

“Right now in the United States there are forty-one other states that already allow this practice,” Simpson says, “including New York, Pennsylvania, California, most of the southern states.  There’s very few obviously that don’t.”

Of course, getting a concealed weapons permit in some of those states—notably California and New York—is significantly more difficult than getting one in Florida.  The U.S. Government Accountability Office reports as of 2012, despite having a population nearly double that of Florida, California only had 35,000 concealed carry permits—compared to Florida’s 887,000. 

Florida’s figure is now almost double that, coming in just shy of 1.7 million at the end of January this year.  That prevalence gives some lawmakers pause.

“So I guess what I was concerned about is the introduction of that weaponry,” Sen. Jeff Clemens (D-Lake Worth) says, “not of the law abiding citizens but just the fact that that is now in airport terminal, and is potentially accessible by somebody who is looking to do harm to someone.  Whereas right now that ability doesn’t exist.”

Simpson allows a stolen weapon could be a concern, but he pushes back with an argument that has become typical of Florida’s fight over gun rights.  

“Where the trade off on that is that if I were—if I knew that there were concealed carry holders in the non-sterile side of the airport, I would be less likely to want to commit a crime like that,” Simpson says, “because I would know that potentially there were more people there that were concealed carries.  I would—that would be more of a deterrent, I would think.”

But some in the airport industry are concerned about the proposal.  Michael Stewart spoke on behalf of the Florida Airports Council. 

“If there’s incidents, our LEOs—law enforcement officers, would have concerns as to who’s carrying weapons and who’s not,” Stewart says.

The measure sailed through the Senate Criminal Justice Committee Tuesday like an expedited security line.  But that probably shouldn’t be a surprise.  The committee often looks favorably on gun legislation.  Its next stop is the Senate Judiciary committee—the same place where campus carry and open carry have stalled out.