DDuring an appearance on FoxNews Thursday, Congresswoman Lauren Boebert (R-CO) dismissed the idea of common-sense gun reform in the wake of the latest school shooting, when a teenager who legally bought a semi-automatic rifle killed 19 students and two teachers in Texas.
“My gun is my equalizer,” Boebert told Sean Hannity, before making what aviation experts say is a baffling analogy. “When 9/11 happened, we didn’t ban planes. We have secured the cockpits.
“His position is just ridiculous,” says Bryan Del Monte, a former Pentagon official in the George W. Bush administration and currently president of the Aviation Agency, a marketing firm dedicated to the aviation industry. “Yes, we have not banned planes. But we haven’t done anything either.
In the aftermath of 9/11, the government, quickly and in a bipartisan fashion, made huge, sweeping changes to air travel, including putting in place a series of rules and restrictions for travelers that still remain today.
It started with a massive investigation into how terrorists were able to hijack planes and weaponize them. “We had the 9/11 commission, which went through a billion pages of information and testimony,” says Del Monte.
What followed was a complete air safety overhaul in no time. “At the time, airport security was largely an outsourced function,” says Del Monte.
But less than two months after the attacks, President Bush signed the Aviation and Transportation Security Administration Actwho created the TSA, an agency that today employs more than 50,000 security officers at 440 federalized airports.
Shortly thereafter, in December 2001, after shoe bomber Richard Reid attempted to ignite explosives hidden in his shoes on a Paris-Miami flight, passengers had to remove their shoes at security checkpoints in the airport.
Thus, in less than three months, air passengers had gone from being able to go through security a few minutes before a flight to being required to show photo ID, remove their shoes and pass the X-ray security check before boarding planes. Relatives could no longer accompany passengers to the boarding gate to accompany them.
And after other terrorist attempts, there were more restrictions. In 2006, after a terrorist plot to detonate liquid explosives on at least 10 flights from the UK to the US and Canada, airline passengers were subject to more restrictions as the TSA banned all liquids, gels and aerosols from hand luggage. A month later, the rule was relaxed to create the 3-1-1 rule, limiting liquids and gels to containers no larger than 3.4 ounces in a one-liter resealable bag. This rule is still in place.
In 2017, following an “increased threat to aviation security,” the TSA began requiring most travelers to remove laptops and other electronic devices larger than a cellphone from carry-on baggage. Only passengers who have been pre-screened through TSA PreCheck can skip this step.
As Rep. Boebert may know, the main priority for TSA agents is to prevent weapons or explosives from entering aircraft. Last year, the agency captured a record 5,972 firearms at airport checkpoints, the most on record – a 35% jump from the 4,432 guns found in 2019, before Covid -19 does not cause the volume of air passengers to drop.
Perhaps most alarmingly, more than 80% of firearms seized at airport security checkpoints are loaded, according to TSA records.
An air passenger is permitted to travel with a firearm as long as it is unloaded and packed in checked baggage, separately from ammunition, in a locked hard case and declared at the airline’s check-in counter. “The airline will ensure it is placed in the belly of the aircraft,” a TSA spokesperson said. “Additionally, people who wish to travel with their firearms should be aware of the firearms laws in the jurisdictions they are traveling to.”
Notably, laws banning guns on airplanes have been in place for decades — long before the TSA existed and before the 9/11 terrorist attack in 2001.
But 9/11 fundamentally changed air travel. “The structure of the national security apparatus has changed in order to respond and mitigate the effects and loss of life of such a terrorist attack,” Del Monte said. “If we were to do that on gun violence, it would force the federal government to seriously look at why kids get their hands on guns and why they can go to school.”
Lauren Boebert’s office is closed for the holiday weekend and could not be reached for comment.
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