Commentary

Saunders: No one really needs to carry a loaded gun on a plane

bsaunders@newsobserver.comAugust 12, 2013 

The comely TV reporter was inviting me up to her hotel room – said she had something to show me – even though we’d met only hours earlier at a journalism conference in Philadelphia.

Hey, that extra splash of Brut must be working, I thought while following her to the elevator.

She, unfortunately, really did want to just show me something: a gun.

Turns out that in her haste to catch her flight, she’d forgotten to disarm and had strolled obliviously through security with a loaded handgun in her pocketbook. Now, she had no idea how to get it back home or whether she should tell the airline of its mistake.

“Its mistake?” I asked.

I don’t know how she finally resolved the issue, because once it became clear the gun was all she was showing, I split.

That incident was a couple of years prior to 9/11 and the ramped up security and paranoia that followed. Just a goofy oversight, one anyone could make, right?

Fashion accessory?

What do you make now, though, of these armed nincompoops who daily are trying to board planes with loaded guns? Are we now such a fearful, armed nation that people are more likely to forget to bring their toothbrush than they are to remember to unpack their guns?

It’s understandable, really, that some think a pistol is a must-have fashion accessory or travel companion. In North Carolina, our legislature has made it legal come Oct. 1 to take your guns to all kinds of places they don’t belong, so why wouldn’t some slow-witted joker think he has a right to carry his piece onto a plane?

To err, of course, is human. Years ago, when moving back here, I got held up at a Chicago airport when the scanner monitor saw something suspicious in my carry-on bag. “Are you in law-enforcement, Mr. Saunders?” she asked, holding the dangling pair of handcuffs up for all to see.

When I confessed that I wasn’t, she allowed me to pack the cuffs – collateral from a security guard who owed me money – in a box and check them in. They were waiting on me when I got here.

No convictions

Again, that was before 9/11. Do that today and you may find yourself wearing handcuffs.

Or maybe not. As reported recently in an N&O story, the offenders are rarely prosecuted, and when they are, a conviction for illegally carrying a concealed weapon is unlikely. At least at RDU. In that story, it was reported that of 47 cases at RDU involving passengers with illegal guns, knives and brass knuckles since 2011, 25 cases were dismissed, there was one prayer for judgment and no convictions.

Some cases couldn’t be located and some had yet to be adjudicated, but there’s no reason to think anyone was going to do some time for trying to board an airplane with a gun. Efforts to reach the Wake County D.A.’s office to find the reason for the low conviction rate were unsuccessful.

Mindy Hamlin, spokeswoman for RDU, said, “The most common excuse they give is that they forgot.” Another excuse, she said, is “If they have a right-to-carry permit, they think that it allows them to carry it on a plane. They figure if they can carry it in Tennessee, then they can carry it in North Carolina.”

Not even Tennessee allows you to carry guns on planes, does it?

No, Hamlin said.

Hmmm. Here’s a question for humanity: Is anyone who is stupid enough to try to carry a loaded handgun onto a plane smart enough to actually have one on the planet?

bsaunders@newsobserver.com or 919-836-2811

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