WASHINGTON -- In response to the recent perfectly legal brandishing of a loaded AR-15 in Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Lithonia, introduced a bill today to extend airport gun bans outside security.
The Airport Security Act would allow gun owners to carry unloaded firearms in a locked case, while banning loaded weapons in the airport's non-secure areas.
While loaded guns currently are not allowed through security, local laws apply at the check-in, baggage claim and elsewhere. Hence Jim Cooley, of Barrow County, carried his rifle (plus a 100-round drum magazine) around Hartsfield-Jackson earlier this month and took offense when questioned by a police officer.
Johnson spoke on the House floor about his bill this afternoon:
"Our nation's airports are economic and cultural engines that drive our local, state and national economy. They are the front door for many of our communities. Unfortunately, they are also a known target for those seeking to incite fear.
"Two weeks ago, a man entered the world’s busiest airport in Atlanta, Georgia, carrying a loaded AR-15 automatic weapon with an extended-capacity 100-round magazine. He did so only to make a point, and that was to show that he was legally able to carry his firearm in the airport.
Mr. Speaker, actions like this, which follow shootings at airports in Los Angeles and Houston, undermine public security in the same way as yelling 'fire' in a crowded theater.
"Today I will introduce legislation to prohibit the carrying of loaded weapons in our nation’s airports. The Airport Security Act is a common-sense bill and I urge my colleagues to join me in keeping the traveling public safe."
Johnson's bill, according to a spokesman, has 15 Democratic co-sponsors so far, including Atlanta's John Lewis and David Scott.
Just a side note: Contrary to what the congressman said on the floor, the weapon that Cooley toted through the airport was a semi-automatic rifle, not an full automatic. But with a magazine capable of holding 100 rounds of ammunition -- which is no small thing at all.
Here's a video clip that Cooley posted on his stroll through airport grounds: