Bill could help Gun Owners at Airports

It's not uncommon for travelers to forget something while rushing to catch a flight. But for gun owners like Rick Campbell, forgetfulness while going through security could result in a layover at jail.

"I just try to remind myself to make sure I secure my weapon before I come to the airport. ... we are law-abiding citizens, trying to protect ourselves and the public," said Campbell.

Thursday, House members approved a bill to give those with a concealed handgun license a break. HB 554 provides a gun owner with the opportunity to leave the screening area at an airport. If the gun owner leaves properly secure the firearm he would not be arrested for a State Jail Felony.

The current law has tripped up some state lawmakers. Representative Drew Darby was arrested at ABIA in 2013. Representative Rene Oliveira also made the same mistake in 2000 at a South Texas airport as did Senator "Chuy" Hinojosa. Charges were eventually dismissed.

State Representative Joe Pickett (D) El Paso, who co-authored the legislation said it's not about giving someone special consideration but about being reasonable.

"I don't think it is preferential treatment, I would wager to say the overwhelming majority of people who have been in this situation are license carriers to begin with," said Rep. Pickett.

In 2014, the Transportation Security Administration confiscated 2,212 guns at airports across the country. The airports in Dallas had the most confiscations in Texas, with 163. Houston's airports had 127, followed by 44 in Austin and 36 in San Antonio.

"We've done a background check on them, we know who they are, and the statistics will also show people who have a license to carry a firearm in Texas as less likely to find themselves in trouble overall," said Rep. Pickett.

The TSA plans to remain a little less forgiving regardless of what Texas lawmakers do. Those caught by federal screeners with a loaded firearm face a civil penalty. Fines average about $3,000 dollars.