This week’s shooting at the Fort Lauderdale airport was horrible. I’ve held off writing about it until now, because so much of the information immediately following an event like this turns out to be wrong. With wraparound coverage of the event online and on television, there simply wasn’t much that I could add.
Copyright: boscorelli / 123RF Stock Photo
The events occurred around terminal 2 baggage claim around 12:55 p.m. on Friday. Early reports had Esteban Santiago flying Air Canada, though this was false, he arrived on Delta originating in Anchorage and connecting in Minneapolis. Additionally, initial reports were 1 person killed and 8 injured, though in fact 5 were killed and 6 injured. Furthermore there were original reports of additional gunshots including elsewhere in the airport. Law enforcement response was chaotic, and numerous passengers were injured in the panic.
During August’s false alarm at New York JFK, TSA agents ran through the terminal screaming about a bomb and a shooting victim.
After the tragic shooting on Friday the perpetrator fell to the ground after running out of bullets and he was apprehended without further incident. He was carrying a military ID, and he turns out to have had military firearms training.
In the video below the shooter walks through baggage claim and then pulls out his gun. TMZ shared video of the shooting, but edited it to show only the time leading up to it and the ensuing chaos.
Since the shooting politicians rushed to the cameras, with Members of Congress like Debbie Wasserman Schultz declaring herself to have an important coordinating role.
Gun control advocates immediately made their case on the basis of this incident, even before it was confirmed that Santiago had served in the military and that he had turned himself into the FBI, and law enforcement returned his gun after they completed their evaluation of him.
There’s been much hand wringing over the idea that he was able to check his firearm and have it delivered to baggage claim, with calls to end firearms in checked bags. However most anyone can walk off the street into baggage claim at nearly every airport in the US without going through security. In other words, eliminating guns from checked baggage does nothing to eliminate guns from baggage claim.
There have also been advocates of security checks to get into airports, as is common throughout parts of South Asia. What you don’t want to do is create long queues — targets for terrorists — to get into airports. And this perpetrator had no problem clearing security and actually flying, such a security check would have done nothing to stop him.
This was a terrible thing that happened. It appears to have been carried out by someone who was mentally ill, rather than a coordinated terrorist attack. There’s an old saying that two anecdotes makes a regulation and three makes a law.
Nonetheless these incidents are rare, flying remains safer than driving even factoring in what happened in Fort Lauderdale. I’m not a particular fan of guns and I do not own one. But I’d rather mourn the people who actually lost their lives than use them as tools to make a pre-existing political point.