Gun enforcement at Atlanta airport curtailed by state law

The so-called Constitutional Carry Law handcuffs police officers enforcing gun restrictions at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. That’s the assessment of a senior Atlanta city official.

State lawmakers approved and Governor Brian Kemp signed the gun bill into law.

State rules supersede local guidelines. At Atlanta City Hall, the city attorney told the Atlanta Police Department that he no longer has the authority to arrest passengers who bring a weapon to the security checkpoint.

Local agents have been the strong arm of the TSA for decades. Although rare, police have jailed some travelers who had a gun in their carry-on.

Now these airport cops have been ordered to no longer arrest and process violators through the Clayton County Sheriff’s Office.

In fact, the airport cops can’t even detain an individual for questioning.

Instead, the officer may ask a passenger to leave the line and “voluntarily” come to the police station for a debriefing. What usually follows is a citation and thousands of dollars in civil fines.

But the passenger is not obliged to accompany the officer. The request can be ignored. The passenger with the prohibited item can leave the airport and carry this weapon to the parking lot or to a family member.

One thing that does not change, according to TSA’s Mark Howell, the weapon will not travel with the passenger.

Ash Joshi, a former Fulton County prosecutor, described the impact on airport policing as unintended consequences.

“All of this could have been avoided,” Joshi said, “if the state had implemented an exception for the airport.”