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Regional Airport in Southwest Florida Requests Machine Guns

September 19, 1986

FORT MYERS, Fla. (AP) _ Guards at Southwest Florida Regional Airport will have machine guns and automatic pistols on hand to deal with terrorists and drug smugglers if Lee County commissioners get their way.

″We’re not being absurd or overreacting. This is a carefully calculated force being prepared against a foreseeable eventuality,″ County Commissioner Porter Goss, a former CIA analyst, said Thursday.

″Very possibly the guns will sit in a box and won’t be used for months. ... But we want them there in case we need them,″ Goss said.

Three of the county’s five commissioners said they favor granting Airport Director Gary LeTellier’s request for $20,000 to arm the 32 airports officers with eight Uzi machine guns and 40 automatic 9mm pistols. The motion will be voted on next week.

″You can’t fight (terrorists) with pocket knives,″ said Commissioner Roland Eastwood. ″Having people out there with anything less (than automatic weapons) is like signing their death warrant.″

The 3-year-old airport is expected to serve 75,000 international passengers this year, compared with 30,000 in 1985, and the number could soar further when the airport completes a U.S. Customs station early next year, LeTellier said. But officials don’t want international crime to accompany the expansion of the airport’s international service.

″We want everyone to know that this airport won’t (tolerate) any nonsense,″ Goss said.