Advocates for the right to keep and bear arms are quick to speak up when they notice even a hint that gun owners’ rights might be threatened.

This loaded handgun was discovered in a woman’s purse at the Portland International Jetport on Oct. 31. Photo courtesy of TSA

But when it comes to gun owners’ responsibilities, they are much less vocal.

For the fourth time in just three months, someone has tried to board a plane at the Portland International Jetport with a loaded firearm in their carry-on luggage.

In each case the gun owner said they had made a mistake – that the fact that they were walking around with a deadly weapon had slipped their minds as they got ready for their trips.

Some mistakes are more forgivable than others. Absent-minded gun toters would have put their own lives at risk, along with the lives of fellow passengers, if they had introduced a firearm into the perilous environment of a plane in flight.

But the fact that they were caught does not put all public safety questions to rest.


Questions like: Are we to assume that Transportation Safety Administration screening is perfect and that no guns ever find their way onto a commercial airliner, either on purpose or by accident? Nationally, the TSA found 4,432 guns in carry-on bags in 2019. Should we assume that none got through?

And should we believe that these four forgetful Maine gun owners are sloppy about keeping track of their weapons only when they are in an airport? Or is it more likely that they accidentally carry their loaded gun into other areas where they could have inadvertently put lives at risk? Some place, for instance, where a small child might have gotten his or her hands on it?

And where are the gun rights advocates who speak so eloquently about protecting responsible gun owners from an intrusive state? We have been told that it’s the criminals we need protection from, not the “good guys with guns” who obey the law and scrupulously observe good safety practices.

You would think that groups like the National Rifle Association and the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine would want to make clear that this kind of sloppy behavior uncovered by TSA at the Jetport should not be treated as an innocent mistake. You would think that they would want everyone to know that forgetting where you put your loaded gun is something that someone who is serious about gun safety just cannot and should not do, as is taught and promoted by these organizations.

The Maine Constitution says that “every citizen has a right to keep and bear arms and this right shall never be questioned.” But like all rights, the right to have a gun comes with responsibility.

People claiming to be responsible gun owners and the organizations that represent them are the first to fight common-sense gun safety legislation that is broadly popular with the public.

These are the kinds of gun owners and groups that should be the first to denounce lazy, sloppy and careless gun handling that puts the safety of the public at risk.



Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.