Fort Lauderdale mass shooter Estaban Santiago flew from Anchorage to Minneapolis, then connected to Fort Lauderdale. He flew with a handgun and ammunition in checked luggage, all perfectly legal. Not just legal, but not at all uncommon in well-armed Alaska, where people regularly hunt and take their guns when they travel.
You might read the words “probably enabled” above, and think that headline is a bit bombastic–even a clickbait claim. But it’s true. Gun-free zones are much more probable places for mass shootings. Whether Santiago knew Fort Lauderdale’s airport was gun-free, and whether he chose that location because of it, is yet unknown.
But we do know this. Things might have been different had Santiago flown to, say, Atlanta:
Just before 1 p.m. on Friday, the FBI says Santiago retrieved his checked baggage at the Fort Lauderdale airport after flying from Alaska with a connection in Minneapolis.
He then went into a bathroom and loaded his gun inside a bathroom stall. George Piro, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Miami division, said he appeared to follow the correct protocol established by the Transportation Security Administration to travel with his gun.
Surveillance video shows Santiago calmly walking through the baggage claim area, pulling the handgun out of his waistband and opening fire on nearby passengers. The FBI says he then emptied one clip, reloaded, kept firing, walked outside the terminal for a moment and re-entered the baggage claim area before dropping the gun and lying down spread eagle.
(First of all, let me dispense with a pet peeve: it’s a magazine, not a clip. I wish these major newspapers would take the time to at least get their gun terminology right. But don’t get me started on that or this will be a very long article.)
Notice that Santiago calmly walked through the baggage claim, blam-blam. He wasn’t particularly worried about being tactical. Of course, that could be because he’s a deeply troubled man with mental problems. But he also may have known that Fort Lauderdale’s airport is a gun-free zone.
Like movie theaters in Colorado, and many malls where shooters simply walk around picking targets until they run out of ammunition, mass shootings are way more likely to occur in gun-free zones than places where gun carry is allowed. In fact, a leading study from the Crime Prevention Research Center shows that 98.4 percent of mass shootings have occurred where guns are banned.
Let that sink in. The very safety that liberals promise by making laws to keep guns out of places is really an illusion. In 2013, when Georgia expanded weapons carry into public places like Hartfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, liberals wrung their hands worrying that there could be a “LAX-style shooting” because guns are allowed.
But since the gun ban at Hartsfield was lifted, there have been no mass shootings at the country’s busiest airport. (That’s zero.) That being said, the TSA, which could not be bothered to simply send people who unintentionally legally carry to the security checkpoint back to their vehicles to safely store the handgun, now summarily arrests those people under some federal regulations. But those regulations don’t apply to baggage claim and other public “land side” areas of the terminal.
If Santiago had flown into Atlanta, he very well may have (and if I were there, would have) faced armed citizens. And armed citizens tend to stop mass shootings because the police can’t be everywhere all the time, even in a busy airport terminal.
A couple of Florida legislators have realized this, and want their state to be more like Georgia, and extend carry rights into public areas of airports.
Florida state Sen. Greg Steube and state Rep. Jake Raburn have introduced separate bills that would allow licensed gun owners with concealed carry permits to bring their firearms to the unsecured areas of their state’s airports.
Though their bills were introduced weeks before last week’s tragedy, Steube said the gunman might not have been able to kill five people and injure six others at the airport baggage claim if their laws were in effect.
“Shooters know they’re gun-free zones, and they know that law-abiding citizens aren’t present to defend themselves and that they [can] go in there and start shooting,” he told Yahoo News on Monday. Stopping such attacks, he added, is “reliant upon how quick law enforcement can get there.”
It’s a smart move. Law-abiding citizens carrying guns for their own protection also has the effect of protecting others from bad guys with guns. It’s a force-multiplier for the police, who are not scared of guns like liberal lawmakers are. Police don’t care as much about the gun in someone’s waistband, they care more about the behavior of the person they’re facing.
Banning gun carry on campuses, and in other public places simply makes a more target-rich environment for terrorists, criminals and mental cases who ignore the law and come armed anyway.