Will Florida Airport Tragedy Have Consequences for Gun Rights?


Because a lone attacker opened fire at a baggage-claim area in Florida’s Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport with a checked firearm, law-abiding citizens may find their ability to fly with firearms could be curtailed in the future, Texas & U.S. Law Shield Independent Program Attorneys say.

Gordon Cooper, an attorney at the Walker & Byington law firm in Houston and an Independent Program Attorney for Texas Law Shield, noted that the attack claimed the lives of five people, and the shooting suspect is in custody. The suspect in custody was identified as Esteban Santiago, Florida Sen. Bill Nelson told reporters.

“This is a horrible tragedy,” Cooper said, “and our hearts go out to the survivors of the shooting and the families of the deceased.”

Cooper also noted that law-abiding gun owners may face far lesser, but still troubling, consequences because of how this attacker brought his firearm into the airport.

The shooter was on an inbound flight to Ft. Lauderdale that originated from Anchorage, Alaska. Broward County Commissioner Chip LaMarca wrote on Facebook, “He claimed his bag and took the gun from baggage and went into the bathroom to load it. Came out shooting people in baggage claim.”

Cooper said, “If this proves to be true, it suggests that all existing check-in rules for firearms were followed. An individual is allowed to check his firearm in baggage as long as he declares it at the check-in counter, and the firearm is in a hard-sided container that is locked. A locked container is defined as one that completely secures the firearm from being accessed. Locked cases that can be pulled open with little effort cannot be brought aboard the aircraft.”

“An additional requirement,” Cooper said, “is that the firearm must be unloaded. Ammunition may be kept in the hard-sided container, as long as it is securely boxed in fiber — for example, the original cardboard box — metal boxes, or other packaging specifically designed to carry small amounts of ammunition. It sounds like this shooter followed the rules to get his firearm into Florida before he started his attack.”

How could law-abiding gun owners be affected by this attack?

Cooper concluded that, “I have no doubt that the anti-gun crowd will exclusively focus on that fact this man legally transported the firearm, rather than the fact this is a disturbed person committing an atrocious attack. It is not beyond imagination that this could be leveraged in an attempt to restrict the rights of all Americans who wish to fly with their firearms.”

The accused assailant apparently got down on the ground and waited for police to arrive after he ran out of bullets, a witness told CBS News.

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