June 19, 2014
On our way home from Paris earlier this month, our taxi was unable to stop at the end of the de Gaulle terminal nearest our airline’s counters. We eventually discovered that there was a lockdown due to an unattended bag. Police armed with automatic weapons were all over the place. No doubt it was a potentially serious situation, but the scope of response and the length of the lockdown seemed excessive.
Closer to home, there is a situation in which the danger is not at all speculative: people carrying guns onto planes, or at least attempting to do so. According to the Transportation Security Administration, the number of firearms found at security checkpoints is on the rise nationwide. Through the first week of June, TSA found 892 guns in passengers’ carry-on bags at security checkpoints. That’s a 19 percent increase from the comparable period of last year, which set an annual record, at 1,813. A one-day record was set on June 4, 18 guns at various airports. For the week, 36 guns were found on carry-ons, 33 of them loaded. (TSA reports that, on average, about 80 percent of all guns intercepted are loaded). One might think that the experience of 9-11 would have had a dampening effect, if only because every flier knows that his person and carryon will be screened. Not so: numbers have gone up every year since 2009.This is unquestionably the result of the growing gun culture; an editorial in Wednesday’s New York Times described the problem:
The steady rise in guns at airport security . . . is . . . a vivid indication of the normalization of casual gun-ownership. Airports in states with lax gun laws tend to have the highest incidence of firearms at checkpoints. . . . When legislatures send the message that guns are acceptable just about everywhere, people bring them just about everywhere.