Texas is known for its affinity for guns, and new legislation will reduce the potential consequences for traveling gun owners who suffer a momentary lapse of judgment while passing through airport security.
A new state law that went into effect Tuesday makes it so that "a concealed handgun license holder can avoid arrest on a third-degree felony charge for bringing a pistol into an airport's secure zone...so long as the person immediately leaves the area upon being told about the weapon," writes Tom Benning of the Dallas Morning News.
Texas senator Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa, who was arrested a few years ago for an admitted oversight when he passed through an airport with a gun in his briefcase, said the new law "provides discretion to law enforcement to make a judgment right then and there," noting that it could be "just an unintentional mistake" in some cases.
The new law is significant considering gun seizures at Texas airports have become increasingly more common over the years.
After all, Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport led the nation with 120 firearm catches last year, while Houston's George Bush Intercontinental Airport and William P. Hobby Airport also ranked within the top 10 for 2014 with 77 and 50 gun catches, respectively.
Altogether, Transportation Security Administration screeners uncovered more than 2,200 guns across the nation's airports last year. And that figure has climbed even higher each year.
Despite potentially avoiding an arrest, careless travelers passing through secure airport areas with a firearm in Texas could still be slapped with a hefty fine from the TSA. Civil penalties involving unloaded guns can reach $3,000, while a similar penalty for possessing a loaded gun can run as high as $7,500.
Earlier this year, in wake of the rising number of firearm seizures at U.S. airports, the TSA issued a warning and a reminder of the proper protocol to air travelers.
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