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Banning Guns On Planes Is Just One Option For Avoiding Future Airport Shootings, Officials Say

U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz addresses reporters following a roundtable on the January shooting at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.
U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz addresses reporters following a roundtable on the January shooting at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.

South Florida law enforcement and transportation officials met Friday with airline representatives and officials from the FBI and the Transportation Security Administration to continue analyzing the shooting at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport in January.

Five people were killed and six injured when a gunman opened fire in Terminal 2. Dozens more were hurt as they fled in panic from a supposed second shooter. There was only one gunman in the incident.

Officials say the suspect, Esteban Santiago, flew from Alaska with the gun unloaded and stored in his checked baggage—in keeping with TSA policy. Officials say that after arriving in Terminal 2, Santiago retrieved the gun, loaded it and opened fire.

U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz hosted Friday's meeting at her offices in Sunrise. She said the TSA has the authority to make a rule prohibiting guns on planes, and that members of Congress could potentially pass a law regulating travel with guns, as well.

But a ban on guns during air travel is just one of several airport security options officials could consider, Wasserman Schultz said.

"I have continued to be in the process of taking a look and seeking input at the best way to address the transportation of firearms," she told reporters at a post-meeting press conference on Friday. "There’s a variety of ways that you can approach it. And I want to make sure that we don’t get caught up in the politics of the Second Amendment."

Neither Wasserman Schultz nor other officials said much on specific measures they'd consider taking to prevent future airport shootings. Barbara Schukraft, director of the TSA's Southeast region, said the agency is reviewing policies in response to the incident; she did not say whether the TSA is considering any sort of ban on travel with guns. Wasserman Schultz said there are armed law enforcement officials in all areas of the Fort Lauderdale airport, but declined to elaborate.

This is the second roundtable Wasserman Schultz has hosted on the incident; the first came a little more than a week over the Jan. 6 shooting. Mark Gale, director of Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, said an independent firm has been hired to help officials analyze the incident, their response and their emergency preparedness.

"We anticipate that that report is going to be an extremely in-depth, comprehensive report on everything that happened that day," Gale told reporters. He said officials expect the report to be ready by this summer, and that it will "develop a series of recommendations that can be used not only at our airport here, but also at airports across the country, and potentially other transportation entities."

Wasserman Schultz says she plans to host more roundtable meetings on the incident in coming months.

Santiago, the suspected shooter, is being held at the federal detention center in Miami where his lawyers say he’s being treated for schizophrenia and related conditions. His trial is scheduled to start in October.

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Kate Stein can't quite explain what attracts her to South Florida. It's more than just the warm weather (although this Wisconsin native and Northwestern University graduate definitely appreciates the South Florida sunshine). It has a lot to do with being able to travel from the Everglades to Little Havana to Brickell without turning off 8th Street. It's also related to Stein's fantastic coworkers, whom she first got to know during a winter 2016 internship.Officially, Stein is WLRN's environment, data and transportation journalist. Privately, she uses her job as an excuse to rove around South Florida searching for stories à la Carl Hiaasen and Edna Buchanan. Regardless, Stein speaks Spanish and is always thrilled to run, explore and read.
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