"Let's Ensure Citizen Safety"
By Capt. Fred Davis
Published: Saturday, January 14, 2017

Last week, as my column appeared denouncing drive-by shootings, a horrific mass shooting occurred at Ft. Lauderdale Airport on Jan. 6. The news media in my area covered the event hour by hour as it unfolded. Videos vividly captured the complete panic by everyone as they fled for their lives, right out onto the tarmacs. Everything was left behind; phones, purses, baggage. Later it was stated 20,000 items had to be cataloged and owners found for them. People were without any type of ID and had to be issued temporary ID cards.

Early reports told of a great toll of fatalities and there was uncertainty regarding whether more than one shooter was involved. Law enforcement from many agencies converged on the scene — Broward and Hollywood police departments, TSA, ATF and FBI officers. They quickly began to secure the terminals. The airport was closed and no one allowed in or out until the search was complete.

It was determined the lone shooter bought a one-way ticket and boarded the flight in Alaska where he lived. He legally declared and checked his unloaded 9 mm handgun and ammo in its gun case. After landing, he simply picked the case off the baggage turnstile and went to the restroom. After loading the gun, he exited and began shooting using all of his ammunition. He then dropped the weapon and laid down on the floor.

He was taken into custody by the FBI and questioned. It was learned he had undergone extensive interrogation by FBI agents in Alaska last November, less than two months ago. He voluntarily walked into their office and declared the CIA was forcing him to watch ISIS videos and were trying to control his mind. They asked if he owned a firearm and when he said yes they said he had to surrender it. They also placed him on a no-fly list. The local mental health agency was asked to evaluate him. After no court order was issued to prohibit it, his gun was returned to him and his name was taken off the no-fly list.

As I see it, and perhaps many others also, this tragedy may have been prevented with some increased security measures. It’s impossible to track every questionable traveler on our airlines. However, a person who had been detained, determined to be mentally unsound enough to have their weapon confiscated and be placed on a no-fly list, should not have been allowed, with a gun and ammo, to fly. At the very least, after presenting as his only luggage a gun case and ammo, he should have received extensive security examination.

I have some ideas which may be under consideration at this time. All luggage should be sealed after going through security and its owner should not be allowed to break the seal before exiting the airport. No one should be allowed into a closed area with their luggage. Any firearm whether declared at check-in or not should be shipped in a separate container that cannot be opened within the airport.

It could also be required that declared firearms must have a claim ticket attached and a lock installed on the baggage. When the ticket is presented to security the lock can be removed outside of the baggage area. Additional fees would be charged to cover the cost of such a procedure and the hiring of additional security employees. If a firearm is found in baggage that was not declared, it should be confiscated and its owner turned over to security.

It’s unfortunate that all rights we as citizens enjoy cannot be exercised in all places. The right to bear arms should not apply to travelers in mass transit situations such as airplanes, buses, trains, ships etc. On any given day, 73,000 people arrive and depart on 325 flights at Ft. Lauderdale airport. After viewing the videos of the terror after one of those flights, I believe it should be mandated no weapons be allowed in luggage.

Take a look at the items not allowed; dynamite, fireworks, flares, hand grenades, plastic explosives — even “realistic replicas” of plastic explosives. Flammable items are not allowed such as spray paint, gasoline, lighters and lighter fluid. Liquid bleach is not allowed. It’s a long list of items that appear in the “no” column. Why not add firearms? They can be shipped just as other harmful items are.

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