Flying in the U.S. has been transformed since Sept. 11, 2001, with passengers forced to remove their shoes, take out their laptop computers and put liquids and gels in clear plastic bags. Yet it’s perfectly legal to take a loaded gun right up to the security checkpoint at some of the nation’s biggest airports. An Associated Press survey of the 20 busiest U.S. airports found that seven of them–Philadelphia, Detroit, Phoenix, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Dallas/Fort Worth, Los Angeles and San Francisco–let people with gun permits carry firearms in the general public areas of the terminal.
Some anti-terrorism experts say that is a glaring security loophole that could endanger airport workers, passengers and people waiting to pick them up or see them off. Some suggest that allowing guns in terminals is practically asking for them to be smuggled aboard a plane. Other authorities say the nonsecure areas of the terminal are no different from other public venues and do not warrant special restrictions. Under federal law, it is illegal everywhere to try to carry a gun through a security checkpoint. The rest of the terminal, however, has long been the domain of state and local authorities. A spokesman said the federal Transportation Security Administration has not taken a position on guns in airports and has no authority under federal law to ban them.