Your incredibly efficient and all-knowing, all powerful, all protecting government has come up with yet another policy to protect you. Effective June 1, TSA will now arrest folks who inadvertently bring a firearm to the airport security area of the airport. Nationwide, TSA confiscated 2,653 guns last year, some from accidental gun toters, some maybe from intentional nuts who need to be prosecuted. While state laws differ, accidental gun carry is just that, an accident.
In Georgia our law allows for a gun license holder who inadvertently brings a weapon to the checkpoint to return to their car to stow the weapon. While not permitted in every state, many states allow it. Alas TSA has decided that it can’t handle the aggravation of those 2,563 folks, so it will now prosecute innocent gun carry.
TSA’s authority to issue this edict is fuzzy because it is buried in federal regulations, not the law itself. Public Law 107-761, passed on November 19, 2001, created TSA and authorized the creation of a myriad of regulations, enacted by unelected bureaucrats, which form the genesis for the fines that TSA levels for non-compliance with their policy. The age old problem of unelected bureaucrats being in the position of governance over the citizens rears its ugly head yet again.
On the criminal side, 49 U.S. Code Sec. 44903, “Air transportation security” is the authority for the proposition that weapons aren’t allowed where the government doesn’t want them. Sec. 44903 is the starting point for voluminous federal regulations that give the authorities the ability to set policies about airports in general, and as a result, about weapons carry at airports. It has the force of law because the regulation, whatever it may be, is authorized by the general law that says bureaucrats can decide what you must abide by. Unelected bureaucrats that is, because there isn’t a federal law that prohibits gun carry at the airport, so the bureaucrats get to decide.
So TSA fines the accidental gun toter, and the Feds can apparently charge the accidental gun toter, and even the local prosecutor at Atlanta’s airport, Solicitor General Tasha Mosley, takes great joy in prosecuting accidental gun toting, under the idea that in Clayton County (upon which the screening area resides) isn’t a big fan of gun toting, except for the gang bangers that every year kill 140 people, rape 119 ladies, rob 161 folks and break into homes 200 times. Every crime stat for Clayton County exceeds Georgia averages! Yet she takes great joy in prosecuting accidental gun carry at the airport. Priorities?
So back to TSA. TSA wastes our time too. Sure, 2,653 gun toters cost TSA some time. Maybe an hour each time to determine that the gun toter is accidentally carrying. So that is 2,653 hours of precious TSA time that they will never get back. Shame on us.
TSA, however, wastes our time a bit too. Averages at Atlanta, which is my baseline, have been 30 to 60 minutes of late, so we’ll call it 45 minutes. TSA’s website encourages people to show up three hours before departure! Three hours! Let’s say you cut it close and get in line 45 minutes ahead of time as advised. Using TSA’s 708,316,339 checked passengers in 2016 (meaning gun toters were .000003% of all searches) as the beginning point, multiply that times 30 minutes (45 minute less 15 minutes that is inherent in the security process), that equals 354,158,169 hours of wasted time due to TSA inefficiency. Or, as TSA would claim, underfunding. Because what government agency doesn’t claim to be underfunded.
So TSA is 133,500 times more wasteful of our time than we are of theirs, but we go to jail?
Kelly Burke, master attorney, former district attorney and magistrate judge, is engaged in private practice. He writes about the law, rock’n’roll and politics. These articles are not designed to give legal advice, but are designed to inform the public about how the law affects their daily lives. Contact Kelly at firstname.lastname@example.org to comment on this article or suggest articles that you’d like to see and visit his website atwww.kellyrburke.com to view prior columns.