The Fort Lauderdale Airport Shooting: Will it Fuel Florida’s Bill to Repeal Gun Bans at Airports?

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Just last week, Florida lawmakers began rallying support for SB 140, a state bill sponsored by Republican State Senator Greg Steube that would repeal laws which ban guns in airport terminals.  Now, the Florida airport shooting might add some traction to Florida’s Bill.

Mugshot of Fort Lauderdale shooting suspect Esteban Santiago.
Photo credit: Broward Sheriff’s Office

As released footage appears to show Florida Airport shooting suspect calmly reaching into his waistband and pulling out a semi-automatic pistol, then opening fire in the baggage claim area, questions arise on whether citizens should be allowed to carry concealed weapons in airports.

The video recording posted on TMZ’s website appears to show Estaban Santiago walking through baggage claim of the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport on Friday, pulling a handgun from his waistband and then firing several times before running.

According to ABC News:

FBI Agent George Piro said Santiago spoke to investigators for several hours after he opened fire with a 9mm semi-automatic handgun that he appears to have legally checked on a flight from Alaska.

“Indications are that he came here to carry out this horrific attack,” Piro said. “We have not identified any triggers that would have caused this attack. We’re pursuing all angles on what prompted him to carry out this horrific attack.”

Investigators are combing through social media and other information to determine Santiago’s motive, and it’s too early to say whether terrorism played a role, Piro said. In November, Santiago had walked into an FBI field office in Alaska saying the U.S. government was controlling his mind and forcing him to watch Islamic State group videos, authorities said.

Santiago had been discharged from the National Guard last year after being demoted for unsatisfactory performance.

Bryan Santiago said Saturday that his brother had requested psychological help but received little assistance. Esteban Santiago said in August that he was hearing voices.

“How is it possible that the federal government knows, they hospitalize him for only four days, and then give him his weapon back?” Bryan Santiago said.

The Washington Post reported that investigators said Saturday that “Santiago drew frequent police attention for domestic violence in his Alaska home town and twice was arrested within the last year. Two months before the shooting, they said, he was admitted to a mental-health facility after showing up at an FBI field office and telling agents his mind was being controlled, complaining that the government was forcing him to watch Islamic State videos. Police held his gun for a month, and then gave it back to him, authorities said.”

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Just last week, Florida lawmakers began rallying support for SB 140, a state bill sponsored by Republican State Senator Greg Steube that would repeal laws which ban guns in airport terminals. The bill was assigned to a committee chaired by a Republican senator who sponsored the House version of Florida’s “stand your ground” law and another chaired by a Republican who voted in favor of allowing concealed carry guns on college campuses. If passed, the legislation would allow people who have concealed carry licenses to bring guns into passenger terminals.

From, Steube argued that laws restricting open carry actually encouraged shooters.

“If you want to kill as many people as possible before the cops arrive then you are likely to go to a place where law-abiding citizens can’t carry,” Steube said at the time. “That’s what we’ve seen, time and time again, and why I think we shouldn’t have them.”

The bill has been touted by gun advocates as “the most important pro-2nd Amendment rights bill of the 2017 legislative session.” In the aftermath of the airport shooting, the bill’s potential effectiveness — or lack thereof — has been debated on social media.

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