A proposal to let people bring guns into Florida airport terminals is gaining traction in the state’s Senate, despite objections from aviation officials and Democrats, the Florida Times-Union reported Tuesday. The bill would allow those with a concealed weapons permit to carry firearms in the parts of airports that come before passengers go through security screening.
The bill is the latest in a series of gun measures under consideration by the Republican-controlled legislature in Florida. Airports are currently among the 15 areas listed in Florida state law where people cannot carry concealed weapons, the Bradenton Herald reported, but state Sen. Wilton Simpson said this means airport terminals “could become more of a target” for terrorists and criminals.
“When you see that there are lots of terroristic threats around airports and security around airports, and it seems to me that when you have 100 million visitors come through the state of Florida at some level, this is one of those areas we need to address,” Simpson, who is sponsoring the bill, said, according to the Times-Union.
The Florida Senate Criminal Justice Committee approved the measure Tuesday, voting 3-2 on party lines. However, it is unlikely to move forward in the near future because the state House version has not yet been heard by any committees.
Simpson told the Bradenton Herald his bill aims to make sure “law-abiding citizens” can protect themselves when dropping off or picking up family members outside security checkpoints. About 1.5 million people in Florida have concealed-weapons permits.
Democrats like state Sen. Jeff Clemens and Sen. Audrey Gibson have questioned the bill, saying it could make it easier for those going into airports to access weapons. “They need to be carrying their concealed weapons to walk their person to the gate because of terrorists?” Gibson said.
But it’s not just a partisan issue. Aviation officials in Florida are also opposed to the idea of introducing more weapons to airports. The Florida Airports Council, which represents 19 commercial airports and more than 75 other airports, is opposed to the proposal.
“If there’s incidents, law enforcement officers would have concerns about who’s carrying weapons and who’s not,” council representative Michael Stewart said, the Bradenton Herald reported.
The proposal says that people hoping to travel with their weapons would still need to unload their guns, pack them into baggage and declare the firearms when checking in. The Transportation Security Administration reported last month that 2015 saw a spike nationally in the number of people trying to carry firearms onto planes. A total of 2,653 firearms were found at airport security checkpoints last year, up from 2,212 the previous year.
The next step for the Florida bill is the state Senate’s Judiciary Committee, which is also waiting to hear bills that would allow some gun owners to carry openly in most places and to carry concealed weapons on public college and university campuses.