On Friday, a gunman “pulled a Smith & Wesson .223-caliber assault rifle from his duffel bag” and opened fire on an airport. Officials have arrested the alleged shooter, 23-year-old Paul Ciancia, who killed a TSA agent and wounded six others at a security checkpoint. The incident is the second airport shooting in six months.
The National Rifle Association has not yet said a word on the tragedy (the day before, the NRA tweeted a story about the so-called “exploitation” of Sandy Hook). But in the past, the NRA has vigorously campaigned to make it easier to bring firearms into airports and criticized TSA agents for their aggressive efforts to ensure guns don’t make it onto a plane. Federal law prevents all travelers from transporting firearms beyond checkpoints (they must be unloaded, checked, and declared in luggage), but the NRA has been a force in weakening state law to permit guns before the security checkpoint.
Advance laws that allow guns in airport terminals.Over the last decade, the NRA has repeatedly lobbied against airport firearm restrictions. According to the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, states including Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Oregon, Utah, Washington, Wisconsin either expressly allow firearms in specific sections or only prohibit firearms in airports beyond checkpoints.
And in California in 2012, the NRA formally opposed Assembly Bill 2182, which would have required a person be arrested if they brought a firearm into the airport and ban them from entering in the future. The bill never moved from committee. More recently, bills introduced in Virginia, Georgia, and Ohio would allow people to carry their weapons inside.
Intimidate TSA agents for aggressively screening for guns.When the TSA subjected a girl carrying a firearm-shaped purse to extra questioning, the NRA responded that this extra precaution constituted harassment. “We shouldn’t be surprised that security personnel who see nothing wrong with humiliating 85-year-old women at our nation’s airports might see a teenage girl sporting a purse with a firearm motif as a potential danger,” NRA President David Keene said said at the time. “But it should upset us as much as it did her and her parents.” The extra scrutiny may be needed: TSA agents have confiscated 30 percent more guns from passengers, many of them loaded, in 2013 compared to last year. Most travelers say they “forgot” they had the firearm, which has made sociologists think the trend is a result of people being permitted to carry their guns virtually anywhere.
Endorse candidates who oppose limiting guns at airports.The NRA’s “A-rated” allies are trying to make it even easier to access guns in airports. Virginia Attorney General and gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli (R) and Virginia Attorney General candidate Mark Obenshain voted against a 2004 bill banning guns in airport terminals (it passed anyway). The NRA has spent more than $500,000 to make Cuccinelli Virginia’s next governor.
The NRA will likely argue that this shooting is more proof guns restrictions should be weakened, not strengthened in public areas, since a bystander could intervene in a shooting. All the best research points to this being even more dangerous.