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Mass Murder at Fort Lauderdale. Ho-hum.

January 7, 2017



Yesterday morning, I boarded a plane at Washington’s National Airport for my flight back to south Florida.  A couple of hours later, as we were descending to land at Fort Lauderdale, I glanced up to see on the TV screen of a nearby passenger a “breaking news” flash:  “Shooting at Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood International Airport.”

My first thought was that our flight would be diverted to another airport, but it wasn’t.  As we landed, we watched our screens as the reported death toll mounted. The pilot came on the intercom and announced that we would be held on the ground and that he had no information about how long it would be before we could deplane.

As the hours went by there on the taxiway, the pilot gave us periodic updates, but there was very little information to impart beyond the fact that the airport was completely shut down.  The passengers on the plane were calm and patient, the flight crew was excellent and did what they could to make everyone comfortable. The toilet filled up, but the ground crew managed to service it so it could still be used. So we waited as the afternoon went by and it got dark.

More than six hours later, one gate opened at Terminal 3, and our flight was third in line to unload.  There was no information about what to do next.  No taxis or private vehicles were allowed to enter the airport to pick up the growing crowd of passengers, and no one was there to direct them.  I asked a policeman how we could leave, and he said there would be buses to take everyone to the cruise terminal at Port Everglades.  But there were no buses in sight.

Hours went by as the crowd (by now there were probably a few thousand people) kept growing, and the few buses that passed were already full. Finally I was able to squeeze on a bus by playing the senior card, and we left for Port Everglades.  Normally that trip would take maybe 15 minutes, but it was more than an hour getting to the terminal because the sole entrance to the port was jammed with police vehicles and other traffic.  The terminal was another chaotic mess.  There was no one to tell people what to do.  I found a policeman, who told me that his advice was to walk a mile or so over to US Route 1 and try to get a taxi. So I started walking when, miraculously, a taxi appeared.  I got home after midnight.

Of course, we were the lucky ones.  Five people had their lives suddenly snuffed out, and six others who were shot will probably never be the same.

A few thoughts:

  • On the plane, there were no gasps or cries among the passengers when we all learned about the mass murder at the airport.  Everyone pretty much took it in stride, I think because mass shootings have become so commonplace that they almost seem normal.  No one is surprised anymore.
  • The shooter reportedly had his weapon in his checked luggage, and removed it at the baggage claim and loaded it in the restroom there before he came out and shot 11 random people.  Putting guns and ammo in checked luggage is perfectly legal.  How is that still possible?
  • The shooter reported had mental health issues and was known to the FBI.  Yet he had no problem acquiring a gun.
  • More people were not shot only because the shooter ran out of ammo and waited for police to arrest him.  Nobody actually stopped him.
  • Although it is now technically illegal to carry a gun into airports in Florida, a Republican state senator, Greg Steube, has introduced legislation that would remove airports from “gun-free zones”.  There are many states where it is perfectly legal to walk around airports with a gun.  That is insane!
  • Unrestricted areas in airports are essentially unprotected. In actuality, anyone can now walk into unrestricted areas, like baggage claims, with a gun and no one would know it.  Fort Lauderdale now joins Brussels and Istanbul in having mass killings in such areas.

Nothing will change under the Trump administration.  If anything, gun restrictions are likely to be relaxed.  As Gail Collins points out in today’s New York Times, Trump has promised to “unsign” Obama’s executive order closing loopholes in online and gun show sales.  The NRA relentlessly opposes expansion of background checks, and both Trump and the Republican party are firmly in its pocket.

Moreover, Trump ascribes to the macho fantasy that having more guns around will make us all safer.  After the Bataclan massacre in Paris, he tweeted “I can tell you that if I had been in the Bataclan or in the cafes, I would have opened fire. I may have been killed, but I would have drawn.”  Of course, that is nonsense, especially coming from a chicken hawk who avoided military service because of “bone spurs” in his foot.  None of the recent mass shootings have been prevented by having civilians packing guns present when they occurred.

So where will the next mass shooting be?  Will we even notice?



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