It's tempting to say, "What the heck," and let Georgia State Rep. Tim Bearden, R-Villa Rica, go ahead and carry his concealed handgun into Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta. However, that’s only because his biography shows he used to be a law-enforcement officer.
Hence, he’s got something that many Georgians with concealed-carry permits do not have: instruction in firearms use, qualification on a firing range, knowledge of when it is legal to shoot — and when it is not. Therefore, if Bearden really feels family members he’s picking up at the airport need his extra, armed protection in the parking lots, baggage claim, ticket counters, atrium and so forth, fine.
Of course, one doubts that Bearden, the author of Georgia’s new, liberalized "carry" statue and who is now suing the airport to let gun-toters on the premises, really is worried. This is a political position, not a personal one.
Frankly, if he really feels this unsafe at the airport he’s more than a little paranoid. He’d be certifiable — and mental patients aren’t supposed to get conceal-carry permits even under Georgia’s very lax requirements.
While Bearden couldn’t "carry" past the security gates and on the concourses, since those are federally controlled zones not under state law — it is likely that Hartsfield, "the world’s busiest airport," is one of the most secure areas on the planet outside of the "Green Zone" in Baghdad. It’s crawling with security personnel, armed and unarmed, uniformed and in plainclothes.
Behind the scenes there are doubtless untold numbers of hidden video cameras, sensors and what-not, plus the taxpayers have spent millions of dollars upgrading its overall security. Why would Bearden need a gun? To shoot anyone who picks his wife’s suitcase off the carousel by mistake?
Consider this: Hartsfield is constantly filled with embarking and debarking uniformed American military personnel, all of whom are not allowed to have weapons in their possession. If the U.S. armed forces believe Hartsfield to be safe, what have Bearden and similarly over-the-top Second Amendment supporters got to be worried about?
Indeed, Bearden’s grandstand play is probably what gives gun-rights supporters a bad reputation. The shortage of common sense displayed is scary — and precisely the sort of thinking one doesn’t want to be backed up with bullets.
Still, let’s stick by the original thought: Bearden’s background of 15 years in law enforcement, assuming his training has been kept current, makes him far more qualified than many of his allies to be in the airport armed.
Yet, until and unless all who have concealed-carry permits are held to higher standards than exist at present in Georgia, the airport manager and Atlanta’s mayor are right in trying to totally outlaw civilian-held guns there. And, yes, given the times, this should be considered a national issue demanding national legislation.
Airline passengers not even allowed to have pocketknives on them are supposed to feel safe mingling with airport visitors toting a .45?
Apparently Gov. Sonny Perdue sees muggers in every airport shadow, too. He says he’d like his wife to be able to be armed when walking from a parking lot to the terminal. Does she know how to use one? Perdue has a carry permit but his wife doesn’t … but it does make a good argument for those nervous about "crime rates."
Bearden stakes his legal claim on his measure, now state law, saying guns can be carried by permit holders onto public transportation (like city buses). The airport and Atlanta counter that the swarms at Hartsfield at any moment represent a "public gathering" where firearms remain banned. Our guess: Bearden and his National Rifle Association allies will win that one unless Congress acts to "disarm" the nation’s airports.
"Legislative intent" is a big part of such adjudications and with Bearden being one of the principal authors it seems he has made his intentions pretty clear.
Yet, the true problem is not the guns. The pro-gun slogan is absolutely correct: "Guns don’t kill people; people kill people." Second Amendment supporters who believe this, like Bearden, should also recognize that in Georgia, unlike many states, there is almost no attempt made to keep guns out of the wrong trigger fingers.
Bearden would far better serve the pro-gun community by appearing to be less of a "gun nut" and more enthusiastic about authoring legislation of the "no guns for nuts" variety.