Yesterday, (Friday, Jan 6, 2017) an army veteran, off a flight in Ft Lauderdale, killed 5 passengers at the baggage claim area for his flight.
Not being that close a follower of the gun problem, I was surprised, but maybe not, to find you can pack an unloaded gun in your checked baggage on a plane flight.
I guess packing guns in your checked baggage hadn’t been a problem until yesterday. You’d now agree it is a problem, right?
outline of a solution
Independent of all the upstream approaches to the gun problem, involving gun permits, psychiatric evaluation, and the like, let’s search for a solution to this single problem: guns on planes.
My knee-jerk liberal self says, since you may not bring any weapon in your carry-on, let’s extend the thought to “no guns in checked baggage” either. But my more reasonable self says, “wait a minute, that’s unfair to the countless law-abiding gun-owners”. Let’s figure out a simple way to permit a gun in checked baggage that doesn’t become a lethal weapon at the baggage claim.
Why not station federal marshals next to the outside baggage checkers. A marshal will receive a gun to be checked, while another at the destination will return the gun to its owner after the flight arrives. Sounds simple, but here’s the catch: The gun owner will have to show a boarding pass to a flight that day, leave the gun with a marshal who then gives it to an airline baggage handler who further places the gun in a container designated for the flight. When that container arrives at its destination, it is unlocked by an airline attendant at the curbside baggage station, again with a federal marshal to hand the gun, in its own case, to the traveling gun owner.
time and money
Implementing this will take time and money. The time is borne by the traveling gun owner; there will be an additional time at check-in for an airlines to tell its passengers what time they need to handle the weapon. And the money. There are at least three interested parties, or roles. The gun carrying traveler, the gun, airline and travel industries, and the public at large. One could ask each gun-carrying traveler to pay whatever fee the airline imposes for their service.
But it’s probably more reasonable to share the cost burden. I don’t have a spreadsheet armed with the necessary data to make an estimate of the per-travel cost. So, each airline could prepare an estimate of its costs, based on available data, which if not currently available, they would do well to answer the question: how many guns where checked last year? They might then suggest a per-flight fee, if the other interested parties would offset the difference.
The government is unlikely to absorb the whole cost itself; it has a few means at its disposal. Raise the difference from the gun industry and its supporters. A per company fee based on the percentage of its sales pro-rated against the guns allowed, or a per-gun tax on any such gun. Remember, the cost of responsible gun ownership just went up because a deranged individual just abused the privilege of checking a gun.
on baggage checking and claiming
In full disclosure, I started thinking about baggage checking, and fairness when I came across a Change.Org petition: Don’t Force Travelers To Pay For Overhead Bins (12/7/2016). That one I regard as absolutely backwards. Which most of the airlines have wrong anyway: it’s the overhead bins which should cost, and the checked baggage should be part of the ticket cost. Why? Simple fairness. A carry-on bag imposes a burden on other passengers, unlike a checked bag. And supposedly provides an additional service: escaping the terminal more readily.
So, now, the idea of free use of overhead bins opens a perverse disincentive to use checked luggage. Especially if you think a deranged gun-owning traveler might be waiting with you at baggage claim.
But, let’s forget the entitlement sought by the overhead-using traveler, and focus on the increased public mistrust of your fellow Americans as you wait at baggage claim. So the public has an obligation to reclaim the public trust for this problem.
where are our leaders
And at the risk of sending the idea down in flames, my proposals to this point haven’t cost me a dime. What I see missing in many solutions to our social problems is a tendency to avoid any personal sacrifice.
The sensible alternative is, “don’t offer a solution until you have some skin in the game”. As a member of the public we have an interest in solving this problem as well. We should be prepared to divide the cost equally among the gun carrying traveler, the gun, airline and tourist industries, and the public. Or some other proportion. I’ll leave that to our elected leaders.
I’ll update this when I’ve shared it with any of our elected leaders.