Ana Veciana-Suarez

The new Wild, Wild West: Allowing people to pack guns by the airport carousel

Airport shooting suspect Esteban Santiago is taken from the Broward County main jail to the federal courthouse in Fort Lauderdale on Monday, Jan. 9, 2017.
Airport shooting suspect Esteban Santiago is taken from the Broward County main jail to the federal courthouse in Fort Lauderdale on Monday, Jan. 9, 2017. Sun Sentinel

Of all the asinine, hair-pulling comments that followed the Fort Lauderdale airport massacre, surely this one takes the cake — and the frosting and the vanilla ice cream, too.

Florida Rep. Jake Raburn, R-Lithia, told the media that a bill he filed in the Florida Legislature might’ve changed the outcome of the shooting that killed five people and critically wounded six others. Raburn has proposed expanding gun owners’ rights, including a green light for the 1.7 million people with Florida concealed weapon permits to carry their guns in airport passenger terminals.

The reasoning: More guns in airports would allow law-abiding citizens to defend themselves. Forty-four states already allow this, according to Raburn, so Florida wouldn’t be a pioneer in this foolishness.

“There’s always the potential — if it were allowed and there were someone in that area that had a concealed weapon — that it could have gone differently,” Raburn said.

I can just see it: The Wild, Wild West played out around the baggage carousel instead of the O.K. Corral. Sure hope Mr. Concealed Weapon is a good, quick shot because everything happened so fast, as it usually does, that no one had much time to react.

More disturbing, because good guys don’t always wear white hats, can you imagine police trying to distinguish between two gun- wielding figures as they storm the area?

For years now there’s been a push to allow firearms into venues that are off limits to concealed-carry holders, places like schools, colleges, courtrooms, bars, legislative meetings and other venues. But it may be only a matter of time before we surrender to special interests. This March, when the Florida Legislature convenes, lawmakers will be grappling —for the third year in a row — with the idea of allowing concealed guns on public college and university campuses.

I think this is madness. Such a simplistic solution is more than irresponsible. It’s laughable.

Consider all the things that went wrong in the Fort Lauderdale tragedy:

▪ Esteban Santiago, the confessed shooter, loaded his gun after retrieving it from his luggage. Aviation rules allow packing a weapon. Why?

▪ Santiago told FBI officers in Anchorage, Alaska, that the CIA was trying to control his mind by forcing him to watch Islamic State terrorist videos, but local police, after sending him to a psychiatric evaluation, released him and returned the gun. Why?

▪ Santiago is an Iraq War vet who received 10 medals and ribbons for his service, but he was also showing signs of mental distress while living in Alaska. He is yet another example of how little we do for our veterans when they come home. Why?

Any serious debate about the Second Amendment, however, degenerates into screaming, insults and recriminations, making it impossible to come up with solutions that work. On the rare occasion I write about guns, my inbox overflows with extremists on both sides of the question. The vitriol is sickening and dangerous, and so is our legislators’ kowtowing to the NRA.

I’m convinced laws alone won’t solve what is a complex problem with many moving parts. Mentally ill people, terrorists, and plain evildoers will always find a way to create havoc, be it by gun, knife or delivery truck. Yet, I do believe we need more controls — if you’re on the no-fly list, you shouldn’t own a gun, for example. Wringing our hands and pointing fingers won’t stop the next harrowing reprisal of this national tragedy. Fort Lauderdale is just the latest chapter that reminds us of our failure to act.

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