Airport prepares for new gun law

When Fourth of July travelers head to the world’s busiest airport, Georgia’s new gun law will alter who gets arrested at security checkpoints for carrying a gun.

Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport is preparing for the state’s new, much-discussed gun law to take effect July 1. It will mean gun owners with concealed carry licenses will not be arrested at the security checkpoint if caught with a gun.

The measure also strengthens state law that already allows guns in non-secured areas of Hartsfield-Jackson.

What won’t change: No passenger can go through security and board a flight with a gun.

Hartsfield-Jackson often logs the most guns found at security checkpoints at U.S. airports, with more than 100 found last year.

Currently, those caught with guns at security checkpoints are arrested and taken to the Clayton County jail.

But under the new law, the Transportation Security Administration will take them to the Atlanta Police Department precinct at the airport, which “will check if the person does have the authority to carry a firearm,” said Hartsfield-Jackson general manager Miguel Southwell. “It’s almost always absent-minded passengers,” he said.

Those without carry licenses on hand still will be arrested.

Properly licensed gun owners “will be released,” Southwell said. They could still be subject to a TSA civil penalty of up to $11,000, and of course they could well miss their flight.

The gun owner also would have to figure out where to put the firearm, the airport says. If they parked a car at the airport, state law requires the gun to be securely locked in the car. They might be able hand it off to someone who brought them to airport, provided that complies with the law for carrying a weapon. Or they could check the gun as baggage, assuming they had a locked hardened case that is allowed by the airline.

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