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TSA gun policy scrutinized after Ft. Lauderdale airport shooting

(Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

In the aftermath of the deadly shooting Friday at the Ft. Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, it was revealed that the gun used in the rampage had been checked by baggage claim on the shooter's flight into what would be the scene of the deadly crime.

Esteban Ruiz Santiago, a 26-year-old veteran, took five lives in his rampage and wounded eight others using a semi-automatic handgun he checked at the Anchorage airport using proper Transportation Safety Administration protocol. After a layover in Minneapolis, Santiago arrived in Florida and reportedly retrieved the handgun, loaded it in the bathroom and began shooting in the baggage claim of Terminal 2.

The ease with which Santiago carried out his attack — which authorities are still open to calling terrorism — has many questioning the TSA's rules allowing firearms to be checked. According to The New York Times, before Friday, guns checked with luggage raised few alarms:

According to the TSA, passengers at the nation’s airports are allowed to transport unloaded guns in their checked baggage. The firearms must be kept in a locked “hard-sided” container, and gun owners must declare firearms and any ammunition to airline representatives when checking the bags at ticket counters, according to the agency’s firearm regulations. Guns, real ones as well as replicas and toys, are allowed to be transported only in checked baggage, not in carry-on luggage. The same is true for clips, firing pins and other firearm parts.

But now, in light of Santiago's vicious act of murder, the federal regulation allowing checked firearms is being scrutinized for several reasons, notably the lack of a requirement proving registration or paperwork for the firearm. Travelers in many cases need merely to sign a document proving the firearm is not loaded and nothing more.

There is also the matter of differences between cities' gun laws. Many have faced fines when retrieving checked firearms in cities where they are technically not allowed to possess a firearm at all.

Checked firearms were once an obscure part of airline travel. The shooting in the Ft. Lauderdale airport Friday has ensured it will be likely be discussed as part of any firearm safety legislation going forward.

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