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 FEATURE ARTICLE  

Airport Executives, Passengers Share Feelings on State Gun Law
By Roishina C. Henderson

Jeremy Jones stood near the security checkpoint at Hartsfield-Jackson and seemed to have no worries as he held his toddler son.

Airport Executives, Passengers Share Feelings on State Gun Law

Jones was preparing to see his wife, Heather, leave for Charleston, S.C. The last thing a husband and father would want to worry about is guns in an airport.

On July 1, new Georgia House Bill 89 went into effect allowing Georgia residents with firearm licenses to carry concealed weapons aboard public transportation and to state parks and restaurants that serve alcohol.

“It’s a security risk to allow guns,” said Jones, a 34-year-old Atlanta resident. “Yes, it’s a one in a million chance that something could happen. But the fact is that we’re living in post-9/11, and people can freak out. This Airport should be gun-free.”

Hartsfield-Jackson Airport General Manager Ben DeCosta and Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin held a news conference on July 1 at the Airport, where they stood firm in their opposition to the law and their commitment to keep Hartsfield-Jackson a gun-free zone. Georgia Representative Tim Bearden (R-Villa Rica) and firearm rights organization Georgia Carry filed a lawsuit against Hartsfield-Jackson to diminish the Airport’s policy on enforcing a gun-free zone, but U.S. District Court Judge Marvin Shoob upheld the policy during an August 11 hearing. Shoob, who said “permitting concealed weapons into non-secure areas of the world's busiest airport would make the Airport less safe,” did not grant a preliminary injunction that could have prevented the city from enforcing the Airport’s gun ban.

“The position we’re taking is grounded in protecting a passenger’s right to travel in a safe, secure, gun-free environment, especially at the world’s busiest airport,” said DeCosta. “It is consistent with federal efforts to protect the safety and well-being of air travelers.”

The Airport’s Office of Public Affairs spoke recently with various Airport customers and airport executives to survey their positions on the gun law.

Yvette Aehle, airport director of Albany Southwest Georgia Regional Airport:
“I think it’s [the state gun law] the most stupidest thing, and I’m so upset that our elected leaders in the state let this go on and didn’t ask what we [aviation professionals] thought. The only security measure we’ve taken is to instruct those with firearms to make sure they have a valid permit on them. We also ask if you have a weapon to leave it in the car; don’t bring it in the terminal and let’s not make things anymore stressful than they are already.”

Patti Clark, airport manager of Valdosta (Ga.) Regional Airport:
“We are complying with state laws, but we haven’t had to enforce the law. We should address the matter. We would like to be gun-free, because I don’t see any reason why anyone other than a police officer should have a firearm.”

Darron Barnhill, 25-year-old U.S. serviceman from Louisville, Ky.:
“I’m against having guns in public places. I’m for gun-free zones for safety reasons.”

Maurice Bradford, 47-year-old from Atlanta:
“The only people who should be carrying guns are [police] officers. The Airport should be gun-free.”

Patrick Graham, executive director of the Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport:
“We stand on the same position as Hartsfield-Jackson on being a weapon-free zone, until we can get clarity on the House bill.”


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