By GAIL COLLINS
Published: May 14, 2010
“Do you support allowing people to carry loaded guns into an American airport?” Senator Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey asked the attorney general at a recent Appropriations Committee hearing.
The proper answer to this question would seem to be: “Huh?” However, Eric Holder is a dignified guy, so he settled for “very worrisome.”
Lautenberg has a knack for proposing laws against things that most people would presume were illegal already. You may remember him from such past hits as “Let’s Not Let Convicted Felons Buy Weapons at Gun Shows” and “Don’t Sell Assault Rifles to People on the Terrorist Watch List.”
Neither is anywhere near being passed. Or even coming up for a vote.
Now he’s got a bill making it illegal to carry a firearm into an airport. It was inspired by the Georgia State Legislature, which recently passed a bill requiring the Atlanta airport to let people with gun permits take their weapons into the lobby, baggage claim, food courts — everywhere short of the point where you take off your shoes.
This seems to have begun with complaints from Georgians who keep a licensed pistol or rifle in their cars. “The greatest concern is when you’re taking someone to the airport, that you not have to roll down your window and throw out your gun when you get close,” said Representative Katie Dempsey.
This is an issue we can all rally around. You do not want people tossing weapons out of their cars willy-nilly. Although another possibility might be to leave the gun at home when you go to catch a flight.
Enthusiasm for finding new places to carry guns swelled among Georgia lawmakers, and by the time they adjourned they had also voted to eliminate the no-gun safety zone around schools and to allow concealed weapons in bars if the owner says it’s O.K.
The bills now go to Gov. Sonny Perdue, who in the past has expressed concern about the perils of the airport status quo. “If my wife wanted to carry a gun, if she was going from the parking lot, walking from one of those far parking lots to pick up a grandchild or something like that, I think that’s a good idea, yes,” he said.
Perdue is an excellent example of the bleak worldview of the National Rifle Association and its champions. No place is safe. Particularly parking lots. And everybody is trying to take away your guns.
“President Obama and his allies like Nancy Pelosi ... if they thought they could get away with it, they would ban guns and ban ammunition,” Sarah Palin told the N.R.A. convention in Charlotte, N.C., on Friday.
It was one of her stream-of-consciousness speeches, dividing the nation into Us (mothers, hunters, the Tea Party Movement, people who love America) and Them (Hollywood hypocrites, animal rightists who are opposed to the swatting of flies, dumb elitist fashion editors, liberals).
Mostly, Palin complained about antihunting groups, which she portrayed as a major threat to “our lifestyle” even though they have about as much political power as the nudist rights movement. Practically everybody in Congress claims to be an avid hunter. Really, I can show you pictures of Chuck Schumer holding a bunch of dead pheasants.
Surveys show that most Americans’ attitude toward guns is in the moderate department. O.K. with keeping a weapon in one’s home to protect against burglars. Very not O.K. with that thing about the terrorist watch list. I’ve never seen a survey on loaded weapons in bars, but I have a feeling the response would not be enthusiastic.
Even in the Old West, saloons made patrons check their guns at the door, but Georgia is not the only state legislature struggling to expand the right to bear arms in the company of the inebriated.
“Essentially the N.R.A. is saying to us, if you don’t support and vote for carrying guns in bars, we will not endorse you. This line of reason borders on lunacy,” said Joe McCord, a Republican in the Tennessee House. He was arguing for an amendment that would have restricted gun-carrying to establishments that got most of their income from serving food rather than alcohol. The amendment lost. McCord is not running for re-election.
To be honest, these days I’m mainly worried about protecting gun control laws in states that want them. If Tennessee likes the idea of bars full of men bristling with weaponry, and if Georgia thinks it’s important to allow people with guns to lurk around school playgrounds, so be it. Just leave the rest of us alone.
However, sooner or later almost everybody has to fly through the Atlanta airport. Can I see a show of hands on how many would prefer that there not be folks prowling around with loaded guns on their person?
Perhaps the governor’s wife could take a cab when she goes to pick up her grandson.
New York Times op-ed, so unfortunately nothing about the actual Georgia or Tennessee legislation that's out there. I've left most of my WTF for my own journal, so I leave this to you lovely people.