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Spreading The News

The year 2018 saw nearly thirty security violations for firearms at the Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport (BHM). In 2017 there were a total of 50 firearms confiscated at the BHM. Nationally, in 2018 there were a record breaking number of firearms confiscated according to Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officials. More than 4,000 firearms were discovered by TSA being bought onto planes. Of those 4,000 weapons violations and breaches, 300 of them were found at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson Airport (ATL). Does this signal that some airports are more unsafe than other?

Much of this can be attributed to states with the most relaxed gun laws more so than the actual airport. Many of the passengers in violation of bringing the weapon onboard did so as they practice open carry laws of their state unaware of different federal laws governing weapons and air travel. Some women, who carry pistols in their purses normally, claim that they simply forgot that their firearm was in their purse. Although regular air travelers are fully aware that we are now living in a post-911 era, most are unaware of newer laws concerning firearms and air travel. According to the law, a passenger can only carry unloaded firearms in a locked, hard shell weapon case in checked luggage. They must also notify TSA of the firearm and ammunition.

A failure to comply with these clear and distinct laws and regulations can be arrested on firearm charges and fined as well. The maximum fine is $13,333. Repeat offenders could be charged with a federal misdemeanor, punishable with up to a $100,000 fine and a year in jail. According to a recent CBS investigative report, TSA profited $1.45 million in firearm fines in 2017.

Atlanta’s airport has ranked number one for two consecutive years (2017-2018) as the most guns confiscated. A total of 293 firearms have been found in carry-on bags in 2018 in the (ATL). On average, 80 to 90 percent of them were loaded. In 2017, 245 guns were found at the (ATL). In 2015, 144 guns were confiscated. It's against federal mandate to take a gun beyond security checkpoints, but in 2014 Georgia law changed and reinforced the right to carry guns in all airport terminals in the state. This is where the slippery slope has been. You can take a weapon inside of the airport but not beyond the security checkpoint. This thus opens canned worm excuse, “I forgot it was in my purse/luggage”.

Once the weapon goes beyond the checkpoint, this is where the federal law takes place now requiring the traveler to now appear in court and likely be fined. The common denominator has been the national gun rights battle and often changing state and federal laws. With the new law, the fines will definitely be higher, stricter criminal repercussions, and the impounding of the weapon whereas with the previous laws, weapons were returned.

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