According to local news reports and gun bloggers, a federal prosecutor in Western Pennsylvania is hoping to team up with county sheriffs to revoke the concealed carry licenses of travelers who accidentally bring guns to airport security checkpoints.
The reports also state that Allegheny County Sheriff William Mullen, whose jurisdiction covers Pittsburgh and its international airport, has agreed to cooperate with the plan.
Needless to say, the NRA encourages all gun owners to be prudent and conscientious about checking any bag that could contain a firearm before using it as carry-on luggage at an airport.
Nevertheless, innocent mistakes can and do occur. Many peoples’ lifestyles involve lawfully carrying firearms, as well as making frequent or last-minute trips by air travel. Someone going to a funeral or hastily-scheduled business meeting, for example, could easily get distracted enough to forget what was in a carry-on bag.
To put things in perspective, the Transportation Security Administration regulates all sorts of items that purportedly pose a risk to air travel, up to an including drinking water. It shouldn’t be assumed that everyone violating one of these rules does so intending to cause harm.
The criminal law recognizes this, and absent illegal intent, cases of firearms mistakenly brought to airport checkpoints are usually resolved with civil fines (perhaps in the thousands of dollars) and possible confiscation and forfeiture of the firearm itself. These measures, where appropriate, should more than encourage more careful behavior from forgetful travelers.
Nevertheless, Acting U.S. Attorney Steven Kaufman of the Western District of Pennsylvania also wants the travelers to lose their concealed carry licenses. Kaufman is reaching out to local sheriffs in Pennsylvania, asking them to revoke these licenses in incidents of this type, even when no criminal charges are brought.
While Pennsylvania concealed carry licenses are considered “shall-issue” for applicants who meet statutory requirements, provisions of the law give licensing officials some discretion to revoke the credentials for unspecified “character and reputation” reasons.
The manifest intent behind these provisions is to allow law enforcement agencies to respond to indicia of criminal intent or activity that hasn’t yet resulted in a conviction.
Leave it to a Biden administration official, however, to try to stretch the bounds of the law as far as possible to diminish the freedom to keep and bear arms, even where’s there no evidence of bad motives.
Moreover, it’s not as if the federal government doesn’t have ample legal tools of its own for dealing with true criminals who intentionally and unashamedly use guns to harm and threaten and others. We have often made the point that federal prosecutors should vigorously enforce existing laws against dangerous predators, rather than search for ways to scapegoat or harass well-meaning citizens who exercise their Second Amendment rights. There remains plenty of room for the U.S. Justice Department to improve in this regard. Indeed, some of the same voices calling for increased gun control also want the federal government to handle fewer firearm cases.
Unfortunately, the Biden Administration is more interested in harassing law-abiding gun owners than reducing crime through the prosecution of violent criminals.