Federal law already makes it illegal for most people to possess a weapon on secure parts of an airport tarmac. The bill was aimed at also allowing local law enforcement, especially at smaller airports, to take action in the face of an emergency.
A state representative says action is still needed after Gov. Greg Abbott vetoed his bill that would have allowed local authorities to bring charges against people who carry a gun in a secure area of a Texas airport.
Federal law already makes it illegal for a person or airport employee to possess a weapon on secure parts of the airport tarmac. State Rep. Rafael Anchía, a Democrat from Dallas, wanted to give state officials the same jurisdiction as federal agents in such a case, partially so that smaller commercial airports wouldn’t have to wait for a federal agent to arrive on site in order to take action in the face of an emergency.
“When you’re talking about a security threat on a tarmac, with a passenger aircraft and fuel and everything like that, every second counts,” Anchía said.
But Abbott vetoed the bill Saturday, writing in a statement that it would “impose an unacceptable restraint on the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding travelers.”
“The Legislature may have intended simply to keep firearms off the tarmac, but the bill as drafted would newly prohibit carrying in any part of the airport terminal building, even ahead of the TSA inspection checkpoint,” Abbott wrote.
Still, Abbott left the door open to a future bill that might accomplish similar goals.
“By vetoing this bill, I am ensuring that Texans can travel without leaving their firearms at home,” he wrote. “I look forward to working with the next Legislature on the good idea behind this bill.”
Anchía said Monday that the bill already takes Abbott’s concerns into account — by excluding private parts of the tarmac that could be used, for example, by a gun owner using a private plane to go on a hunting trip.
“The fact that the governor is suggesting somehow the language picked up the nonsecure area of the terminal is really not credible,” Anchía said.
Anchía said over the weekend that police at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport “asked for this bill.” Representatives from the city of Dallas, the Houston Police Department and the Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas registered their support. But members of the gun rights groups Open Carry Texas and Gun Owners of America opposed the bill at hearings.
It passed with a 140-8 vote in the House and 25-6 in the Senate, Anchía noted.
Earlier this year, data from the Transportation Security Administration reported a surge in the number of guns found at airport security checkpoints, where guns are still banned.
Out of the top 10 airports where TSA found the most guns, four are in Texas.
“The threat's not going to go away, so we need to deal with it in the legislation,” Anchía said. “I just worry that the threat still exists.”