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Judge upholds gun ban at Atlanta airport

August 12, 2008|From the Associated Press

ATLANTA — A federal judge on Monday upheld a gun ban at the world's busiest airport, dealing a blow to gun rights groups who argued that a new Georgia law authorized them to pack heat in certain parts of the Atlanta airport.

U.S. District Judge Marvin Shoob expressed concern that allowing guns at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport could cause significant economic damage and could be a "serious threat to public safety and welfare."

His decision rejected a request by GeorgiaCarry.org that would have temporarily allowed gun owners to carry their weapons in the airport until his final ruling on the gun ban -- a challenge that could last months.

The legal showdown erupted when the state law that allows people with concealed weapons permits to carry guns into restaurants, state parks and on public transportation took effect on July 1.

City officials declared the airport a "gun-free zone" and warned that anyone carrying a gun there would be arrested.

GeorgiaCarry.org sued the city and the airport, claiming that the airport qualifies as mass transportation under the new state law. Attorney John Monroe, a GeorgiaCarry board member, told the judge repeatedly that no law makes it a crime for residents with permits to bring their guns into terminals, parking lots and other unsecured areas.

Gov. Sonny Perdue, who signed the bill into law in May, supports the lawsuit. Perdue, a Republican, suggested that his wife might want to carry a firearm for long walks between the parking lot and the terminal.

City officials said allowing guns at the airport could pose a dire threat to the millions of passengers it serves each year. Even an accidental firearm discharge, they said, could cause mayhem.

"First, you're going to have a stampede," said Robert Kennedy, the airport's assistant general manager.

Airport officials have asked the Transportation Security Administration to amend the airport's federal security program so that guns are banned in all areas. The TSA is reviewing the request, the first such appeal it has received.

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