Gazette-Mail editorial: Right to own firearms comes with responsibility

Well, that didn’t take long.

Just five days into 2020, a man was stopped by security at Yeager Airport after trying to board a plane with a loaded .22-caliber handgun in his carry-on bag. The pistol had five rounds in its magazine, according to Transportation Security Administration officers, who notified airport police. The man was questioned, given a citation and, eventually, allowed to board the plane without his weapon.

Just before Christmas, a West Virginia man from Marion County was detained at Pittsburgh International Airport when TSA screeners found a loaded 9mm pistol, which had a round in the chamber, in the man’s carry-on. It was the 35th gun confiscated by authorities at the Pittsburgh airport in 2019 — a new record.

Press statements from the TSA regarding both incidents didn’t say whether the passengers had forgotten the firearms were in their bags, didn’t know the regulations about firearms and air travel (always illegal to bring a gun on a plane, loaded or not, although unloaded firearms and separately stored ammo can be placed in checked bags) or were actually intentionally trying to bring a loaded gun onboard an airplane. In most cases — and there have been many over the past few years — it’s the first scenario. Of course, being absent-minded about the location of a loaded handgun winds up sounding just as bad as the other possible explanations.

Apparently, the TSA has become as fed up about this as everyone else. Along with the boilerplate deterrent language that it gives when addressing any of these incidents (offenders can be fined up to $13,000 or arrested, and typical costs for a first-time offense are a little more than $4,000), it has added the following line:

“When an individual shows up at a checkpoint with a firearm, the checkpoint lane comes to a standstill until the police resolve the incident. Guns at checkpoints can delay travelers from getting to their gates.”

That’s right, the TSA has tried to tell people it’s going to hit their pocketbook, but now they’re hoping public humiliation and the guilt of inconveniencing everyone else at the airport will also serve as a deterrent. Maybe they’re on to something.

This continuing problem is one we’ve addressed multiple times on this page, but it’s worth repeating every once in a while, because it always comes back to a larger point. Guns are lethal. If someone is being cavalier about how they store or where they keep a loaded handgun, the airport probably isn’t the only place that’s an issue. And when people are less than mindful of where or how a firearm is stored, that can lead to tragic accidents, or incidents not so accidental, that are completely avoidable.

The U.S. Constitution grants the right to own weapons. But those who do so must exercise that right with the utmost caution and respect for a firearm. They’re a danger to themselves and others when they act otherwise. Anyone who advocates for the Second Amendment must also show they are deserving of that right.

Funerals for Monday, January 27, 2020

Davis, Valerie - 11 a.m., Cunningham Memorial Park, St. Albans.

Hamrick, Leonard - 1 p.m., Waters Funeral Chapel, Summersville.

Hughes Jr., Denver - 1 p.m., Curry Funeral Home, Alum Creek.

Keen, Cora - 2 p.m., Tyler Mountain Memory Gardens, Cross Lanes.

Lazear, Elizabeth - 7 p.m., Keller Funeral Home, Dunbar.

Masters, Delores - 1 p.m., Glen Ferris Apostolic Church, Glen Ferris.

Milroy, Miller - 11 a.m., Simons-Coleman Funeral Home, Richwood.

Petro, Edith - 11 a.m., Cunningham-Parker-Johnson Funeral Home, Charleston.

Phelps, Herbert - 2 p.m., Chapman Funeral Home, Hurricane.

Stanley, Gary - 1 p.m., Pryor Funeral Home, East Bank.

Stewart, Donna - 1 p.m., First United Methodist Church, South Charleston.

Walker, Iva - 1 p.m., Roush Funeral Home, Ravenswood.

Wilkinson, Catharine - Noon, Raynes Funeral Home, Eleanor Chapel.

Williams, Joseph - 3 p.m., Tyler Mountain Memory Gardens, Cross Lanes.