US shooting shines spotlight on rules allowing checked weapons on planes

Washington: The Florida shooting rampage that left five dead and six injured has renewed anxieties about airport security — a concern that has loomed large in the post-9/11 era — and shed new light on ongoing US gun-control debates.

The incident occurred in a baggage claim area at the Fort Lauderdale International Airport, as passengers collecting their luggage were interrupted by the alleged gunman, who withdrew his weapon before opening fire on his victims.

The Transportation Security Administration — the agency responsible for security at United States airports — allows passengers to travel with unloaded firearms as checked baggage only.

Weapons must be transported in a locked hard-sided container. Firearm magazines and ammunition clips must also be checked and “securely boxed,” according to TSA regulations.

Passengers are required to declare guns and ammunition when they check in their luggage, and under no circumstances can weapons be stowed in carry-on bags.

Many travelers still try to skirt that rule: In 2015, 2,653 firearms were found during TSA screenings.

In the last week of December, 53 firearms were seized at US airports — 42 of them loaded.

The TSA’s regulations apply to air travel and rules on the ground vary widely depending on the state.

In some US states, weapons are prohibited in public areas like airports, but others have relaxed legislation to allow people to carry weapons in places including university campuses and airport terminals.

The shooting in Florida came as some legislators there are pushing to eliminate gun-free zones, in a state that issues permits authorizing the concealed carry of weapons.

Republican State Senator Greg Steube, who introduced the measure, said Friday’s shooting bolstered his case for repealing a law that prohibits guns in places including airport terminals.

“Gun free zones don’t prevent criminals from breaking the law and killing innocent victims,” Steube told a local newspaper. “All that law did was prevent law-abiding citizens who have a concealed-carry permit from carrying their firearm in defense of themselves and others.”