Dr. Peter Steinmetz, a brain surgeon and director at Barrow’s Neurological Institute, was arrested last week when he took his AR-15 rifle to Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport for a cup of coffee. Dr. Steinmetz was arrested by Phoenix Police when it is alleged he inadvertently pointed the rifle at someone while removing it from his shoulder where he had it on a sling. Despite his arrest, as of the publication of this article, Dr. Steinmetz has not been charged with a crime.
Is it legal to take my firearm to the airport? In Arizona it is legal to take your firearm to the unsecured area of the airport. The Arizona Constitution enumerates the right to possess firearms in self defense: The right of the individual citizen to bear arms in defense of himself or the state shall not be impaired, but nothing in this section shall be construed as authorizing individuals or corporations to organize, maintain, or employ an armed body of men. See Article 2, Section 26, Arizona Constitution.
While there is a constitutional right to carry a firearm in Arizona, there are limitations. You are prohibited from carrying a firearm in the secured area of the airport: A person commits misconduct involving weapons by intentionally carrying, possessing or exercising control over a deadly weapon in a secured area of an airport.
But firearms are permitted in the unsecured area of the airport: This section does not apply to: General aviation areas not included in the security identification display area or sterile area as defined in the airport security program approved by the transportation security administration. See § 13-3119, Arizona Revised Statutes.
Yes, it is legal to take your firearm to the unsecured area of an Arizona airport while you enjoy a nice hot cup of coffee. Just don’t try to take it through the security checkpoint.
This leads us to the next question. Is it a good idea to take my firearm to the airport? Unless you are planning on travelling with your firearm and have it properly secured for airline travel, it is not a good idea to openly carry a firearm in an airport. If you want to carry a firearm in the unsecured area of the airport, or any public place, for that matter, I strongly advise concealed carry for the following reasons:
- Concealed carry does not scare the horses. Forty years ago, Phoenix was a pretty rural and rugged place. Times have changed and the influx of people from all over the country means that attitudes about firearms vary. There is no sense in scaring people by openly carrying a firearm into a place where they are not used to seeing one. Scaring someone is not going to convince them to support the 2nd Amendment.
- Concealed carry puts you at a tactical advantage. The best tactical advantage you can have is surprise. If your intention in carrying a firearm is to have a tool to defend yourself, you want every advantage you can take. If you are openly carrying a firearm and someone intends to do harm, you are very likely going to be noticed and targeted first. Don’t give up the advantage of surprise by openly carrying your firearm.
- Concealed carry protects you from false accusations. If no one knows you are carrying a firearm, you are very unlikely to be falsely accused of pointing the weapon at someone. I have handled multiple cases where a person who is openly carrying is falsely accused of pointing the firearm at someone. This can lead to an expensive and stressful court battle. Avoid false accusations by carrying your firearm concealed.
I am a strong supporter of the right to carry a firearm for the purpose of defending yourself and your loved ones and I support the right to carry a firearm openly or concealed. I believe the purpose of the 2nd Amendment is to allow citizens to protect themselves from an oppressive government and to defend themselves.
I am opposed, though, to the current trend of people openly carrying rifles in public places where people would not expect to see a rifle. I think this is a bad idea and will hurt the 2nd Amendment more than support it.
If you want to convince someone to support the 2nd Amendment, take them shooting in a safe environment while teaching and demonstrating proper safety. Nothing will convince a person who is on the fence about guns more than a fun and safe afternoon of sport shooting.
Finally, if you own firearms, you have a responsibility to store them safely. That means locking them up and storing them in a manner where they are protected from children, burglars, and the irresponsible. I highly recommend gun safes.