After a man legally brought his AR-15 into Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, a Georgia Democrat has introduced legislation to ban guns on airport grounds before the security checkpoints as well as beyond.
Rep. Hank Johnson’s (D-Ga.) Airport Security Act of 2015 would levy a prison term of up to 10 years for the offense, superseding any local laws that allow gun owners to carry on airport grounds.
Earlier this month, a Georgia man carried his loaded AR-15 into the Atlanta airport to drop his daughter off for a flight. He took pictures of his open carry in the terminal, which is legal under state law, and sent the photos to a local television station.
“It shouldn’t matter what I carry, just that I choose to carry,” the gun owner, Jim Cooley, said. “You never know where something might happen.”
Cooley was followed by Atlanta police as he carried the weapon; the department said they didn’t infringe on his gun rights yet at the same time wanted to ensure the safety of others at the airport.
Johnson said his bill, which has 15 Democratic co-sponsors, to stop that kind of carrying on airport grounds is just “common sense.”
“Airports are the gateway to commerce throughout the world and the front door to the communities they connect for millions of passengers who visit the United States each year,” the congressman said in a statement. “It defies logic that we would allow anyone other than law enforcement officials to carry a loaded gun within an airport.”
Both concealed carry and open carry would be prohibited in his bill, with the exception of local law enforcement and Homeland Security employees.
The area covered would range from the curbside pick-up and drop-off areas to the ticket counters, baggage claim, and any area of the terminal.
Airports would also be required to post signs marking the area as a gun-free zone.
If a traveler is carrying a gun, it would have to be unloaded and in a marked, locked case. A traveler could only carry a gun on airport property in this way within 24 hours of a ticketed flight.
Johnson said on the House floor Monday that Cooley was carrying his AR-15 “only to make a point that was to show he was legally able to carry his firearm in the airports.”
His actions, the congressman said, “undermine public security in the same way as yelling ‘fire’ in a crowded theater.”
Below, a video Cooley posted of his encounter with an Atlanta cop at the airport.