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Carrying Guns at US Busiest Airport Sparks Controversy

  • Mike Cooper

A new law in the southern state of Georgia has set the stage for a court dispute over whether guns should be allowed at the nation's busiest airport. Mike Cooper reports for VOA from Atlanta on the disagreement over where firearms can be carried.

The new Georgia law allows citizens with a permit to own a gun to bring their concealed weapons into state parks, restaurants that serve alcohol or on public transportation.

While federal law bans bringing a gun past airport security checkpoints, firearm proponents argue the Georgia law means they can now carry guns in all other areas of Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.

Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin disagrees. She said the city will continue to enforce a no-gun policy in all areas of the airport, which handles 89 million passengers a year.

"It is virtually impossible for us to ensure safety if anyone without training who gets a permit to carry a gun in Georgia is allowed to come into the airport," she said.

Mayor Franklin said she will push for a new federal law declaring all U.S. airports as gun-free zones.

Of Georgia's 9.5 million residents, more than 300,000 have permits to carry a gun. They must undergo a criminal background check, but they are not required to have any practice or training.

When the new law went into effect Tuesday, a gun advocacy group, GeorgiaCarry.org, filed a lawsuit in federal district court challenging the airport's firearms ban.

The group's attorney, John Monroe, rejects the city's claim that the airport is a "public gathering" place.

"It says you can't carry to a public gathering. And then farther on down under H.B. [House Bill] 89 it says, but if you have a license you can carry on public transportation. So there's an exception built right into the public gathering law," he said.

The controversy in Atlanta is not directly related to last week's decision by the U.S. Supreme Court striking down a ban on handguns in Washington, D.C. But that decision is widely expected to trigger more legal challenges of restrictions on gun
ownership around the nation.

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