One-third of all Americans own a gun, it's time for TSA to stop discriminating

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If you have followed the news headlines lately, you know that the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) – the bureaucracy responsible for ensuring the safety of our nation’s travelers – has seen better days. An internal investigation released in June found that the TSA had a stunning 96 percent failure rate in detecting weapons and fake explosives.  More recently, a report from “The Today Show” revealed that NBC producers were able to pass airport security with Swiss army knives and box cutters in tow. Comforting, huh?

While knives and weapons may make it past airport security all too often, your handgun carry permit – a government-issued form of identification – will not. I speak from personal experience. On a recent flight from Nashville to Washington, I approached the TSA counter only to realize my drivers’ license was tucked away in a pocket of my jeans at home. Unfazed, I pulled out my handgun carry permit to identify myself to the agent. The card bears my picture, my full legal name, my date of birth, and a hologram with the state seal.

Further, as any firearm owner knows, the process of obtaining your handgun license is significantly more involved than obtaining a drivers’ license. It requires completion of a safety course, a fingerprint, and a thorough background check. If that’s good enough to carry a weapon, then surely it is sufficient as a form of identification to board a plane, right?

Wrong. As I handed over my permit, I was met with a look of immediate disapproval. The TSA agent informed me that handgun licenses are banned as a form of identification. After a moment of panic, I showed the agent my Congressional voting card and boarded my flight, but I vowed to do my research on the subject upon returning to Washington.

We all understand the need for tough security measures at our nation’s airports, but these policies must be rooted in logic and fact, not someone’s political agenda.

As it turns out, the TSA agent was correct. Their website explicitly states that “A weapon permit is not an acceptable form of identification” so I decided to determine what is allowed under TSA standards. According to federal law, the criteria for a “verifying identity document” is “an unexpired document issued by a U.S Federal, State, or tribal government” that includes your full name, date of birth, and photograph … In other words, everything that is on my handgun carry permit.  Compounding my frustration were the reports earlier this year that TSA was accepting Costco membership cards as a form of identification. Double standard much?

We all understand the need for tough security measures at our nation’s airports, but these policies must be rooted in logic and fact, not someone’s political agenda.

One in three Americans own a gun and there is no reason to make them feel like second class citizens when traveling. That is why I introduced the Nondiscriminatory Transportation Screening Act, or the “TSA Act” for short.

This simple, two-page bill would allow Americans to use handgun carry permits bearing a photograph for TSA purposes while maintaining strong protections for gun owners’ privacy rights and prohibiting government tracking of individuals who choose to present this identification at airport screenings.

The legislation is not simply a response to my travel experience; it also reflects the will of the states – such as in Texas, where the state legislature overwhelmingly adopted a bipartisan resolution calling upon Congress to pass a bill such as this.

I do not discount the very real threats that exist to passenger safety on our nation’s transportation system, but law-abiding gun owners choosing to identify themselves with a handgun carry permit are not among those.

After seven years of hostility from this administration towards Americans who exercise their Second Amendment rights, passage of the TSA Act should be a simple, bipartisan step we can take to stop the government’s marginalization of gun-owners and alleviate confusion for millions of American travelers this holiday season.