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Impact of Firearms Laws on Airports (2016)

Chapter: Legal Research Digest 29: Impact of Firearms Laws on Airports

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Suggested Citation:"Legal Research Digest 29: Impact of Firearms Laws on Airports." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2016. Impact of Firearms Laws on Airports. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/23597.
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Legal Research Digest 29 AIRPORT COOPERATIVE RESEARCH PROGRAM Sponsored by the Federal Aviation Administration August 2016 IMPACT OF FIREARMS LAWS ON AIRPORTS This report was prepared under ACRP Project 11-01, Topic 07-01, “Legal Aspects of Airport Programs,” for which the Transportation Research Board (TRB) is the agency coordinating the research. The report was prepared by Larry W. Thomas, The Thomas Law Firm, Washington, DC. Responsible Senior Program Officer: Marci A. Greenberger Background There are over 4,000 airports in the country and most of these airports are owned by governments. A 2003 survey conducted by Airports Council International–North America concluded that city ownership accounts for 38 percent, followed by regional airports at 25 percent, single county at 17 percent, and multi-jurisdictional at 9 percent. Primary legal services to these airports are, in most cases, provided by municipal, county, and state attorneys. Reports and summaries produced by the Airport Continuing Legal Studies Project and published as ACRP Legal Research Digests are developed to assist these attorneys seeking to deal with the myriad of legal problems encountered during airport development and operations. Such substantive areas as eminent domain, environmental concerns, leasing, contracting, security, insurance, civil rights, and tort liability present cutting- edge legal issues where research is useful and indeed needed. Airport legal research, when conducted through the TRB’s legal studies process, either collects primary data that usually are not available elsewhere or performs analysis of existing literature. Foreword The right to carry guns at airports is subject to the U.S. Constitution, federal and state legislation, and judicial decisions. Some state laws allow guns to be carried openly in public places. Most state laws regulate how guns are to be carried in a vehicle or left in a public or an employer’s parking lot. These and other state laws also have ramifica- tions for commercial airports in the United States. The Second Amendment to the Constitution generally provides the parameters of the constitutionally protected right to bear arms. A number of U.S. Supreme Court cases delineate the scope of this constitutional protection. But there also have been federal district and appellate court decisions demonstrating that there is a lack of consensus among the courts on the limits of the constitutional protec- tion of firearms. All 50 states have enacted statutes that relate to the carriage of guns within their borders. Some states have relaxed their restrictions, particularly on the open carrying of firearms. Other states have increased their restrictions on both the open and concealed carrying of guns. Some states ban the carrying of a firearm anywhere in an airport, whereas many states prohibit localities from enacting laws that regulate the possession of firearms in a manner inconsistent with state law. The digest analyzes recent court cases on federal and state laws that have been challenged for restricting or prohibiting the carrying of firearms in public and other places. The digest also includes a compendium of federal and state laws that are relevant to the carrying of guns at airports and elsewhere.

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TRB's Airport Cooperative Research Program (ACRP) Legal Research Digest 29: Impact of Firearms Laws on Airports analyzes recent court cases on federal and state laws that have been challenged for restricting or prohibiting the carrying of firearms in public and other places.

The right to carry guns at airports is subject to the U.S. Constitution, federal and state legislation, and judicial decisions. Some state laws allow guns to be carried openly in public places. Most state laws regulate how guns are to be carried in a vehicle or left in a public or an employer’s parking lot. These and other state laws also have ramifications for commercial airports in the United States.

Accompanying the report are appendices available online:

  • Appendix A: Survey Questions
  • Appendix B: List of Airports and Airport Authorities Responding to the Survey
  • Appendix C: Summary of Responses by Airports and Airport Authorities to the Survey
  • Appendix D: ACRP Web Only Document 29: Compendium of State and Federal Laws Affecting the Possession of Firearms at Airports
  • Appendix E: Airport Ordinances, Policies, and Rules and Regulations Provided by Airports Responding to the Survey
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