People forget things all the times. We forget where we placed our keys, we forget to take out the garbage on trash day, and we occasionally forget anniversaries (much to our loved ones’ chagrin). Normally, when something slips our mind it isn’t that big of a deal – you just apologize and move on. When you happen to forget that you’re carrying a gun when you walk through TSA airport security, however, the excuse “I forgot” might not cut it.
Last week, flight attendant Jaclyn Luby of Republic Airlines accidentally forgot about her gun when she went through security on her way to work. TSA spotted the .38-caliber handgun in her handbag as she checked it through the X-ray machine, and they immediately notified authorities.
This is where the story should have ended, but when it rains it pours. A police officer attempted to unload the gun and accidentally fired the weapon, causing the bullet to harmlessly strike the wall of a TSA break room. In this case, two wrongs definitely don’t make a right.
Both individuals were punished for their mistakes. Luby received a summary citation for disorderly conduct, which authorities claimed was standard practice for anyone who carries a firearm into an airport. Luby wasn’t arrested, though, because she has a permit to carry the firearm. The unnamed police officer was placed on desk duty.
It’s difficult to say who’s at fault here. On the one hand, it appears that these two people just happened to get unlucky and make simple mistakes. On the other hand, both people should have known better and their mistakes could have resulted in a death. The fact that this all took place in an airport made the situation even worse.
Luby got a bit of support from airport travelers. One told NBC Philadelphia, “If I carried it with me, sure (I’d forget), why not? But at least the security picked up on it and it turned out that’s not an issue,” while another flier scoffed at the mistake: “Aww, c’mon. How long has she been working with the industry?” Even the officer got some anonymous sympathy. One gun owner said, “(Accidental discharge) could happen… I have guns and if you don’t unload ‘em right (they) can go off.”
If you ask us, this story is less about the issue of carrying guns on planes (that’s a whole ‘nother debate), and more about what happens when firearms and Murphy’s Law cross paths. Human error is inevitable, so what should the legal system do about gun mishaps?
We already have a template for that in our existing legal system. Involuntary manslaughter, while still a punishable offense, is less severe than manslaughter. Should we do something similar with laws that relate to gun possession and transportation?
It reminds us of a story from a while back – a trucker accidentally took a wrong turn on a one-way road and was forced to drive $100k worth of bullets over the U.S.-Mexico border. Mistakes happen – and some mistakes will inevitably happen with guns and bullets involved. The big question is: what should we do about it?