Fort Lauderdale Airport Tragedy Gives Way to Familiar Back-and-Forth on Gun Control

Jan 9, 2017


  When a gunman opened fire inside an airport terminal in Fort Lauderdale Friday, it was only a matter of time before tragedy gave way to a shockingly familiar political debate: are guns part of the problem, or aren’t they?

Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said after Friday's attack that people with mental illnesses should not be allowed to have handguns.
Credit www.scottisrael.com

“If they are suffering from a mental illness or they’re on a no-fly list or they’re a convicted felon, they flat-out shouldn’t be allowed to own handguns, or rifles,” said Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel at a press conference on Saturday, urging tighter controls on who has legal access to firearms.

Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, whose district includes the Hollywood-Fort Lauderdale International airport, said “You need federal background checks that make sure that people who shouldn’t have guns can’t get them, and those loopholes need to be closed.”

When she returns to Washington this week, Wasserman-Schultz  says she’ll focus on making raising questions about incremental changes to security at airports—“Whether or not we should allow firearms in checked bags? You know, do you allow people to travel with ammunition as well as their firearm.”

Others will call for more guns in more public spaces. It’s the argument the head of the National Riffle Association (NRA)  Wayne Lapierre famously made in 2012,  less than a week after a gunman killed 20 first graders inside Sandy Hook Elementary School: “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” he said.

That argument has some traction among Florida lawmakers. Just a few weeks ago, Senator Greg Steube of Sarasota introduced SB 140, a bill that would allow concealed handguns at public meetings, on college campuses, and inside passenger terminals at Florida airports, overturning existing restrictions.

After the shooting, Steube stood by his bill, saying "I think it further enforces the point: People should have the ability to defend themselves."