The lawsuit raises the issue of whether airlines are responsible for advising passengers of what the law is in the place they are travelling to.
Mark Benedetto, president of the University of Sioux Falls, has a valid permit to carry a concealed weapon, issued by his home state of South Dakota.
Last Sept. 28, he and his wife, Gail, flew to New York City to pick up some 9/11 memorabilia to display on the campus of the university. Benedetto decided to take his handgun with him.
Benedetto packed his gun in locked box and put it in his checked luggage. At the airport, he declared that he had the firearm. These actions fulfill the requirements of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) in order to legally transport a gun on a plane. Benedetto encountered no difficulties in his trip to New York City.
On Oct. 2, he and his wife were at LaGuardia Airport waiting to catch a flight home. He packed the gun the same way and again declared that the firearm was in his luggage. The lawsuit, as reported by USA Today, states, "Without warning or explanation, the Delta ticket agent proceeded to notify the New York New Jersey Port Authority Police via telephone that he had a passenger who had declared a firearm."
The university president was arrested and spent the night in a Queens, New York jail. The charge was later dropped and the record of the arrest expunged. But, as reported by My Fox Washington, the lawsuit says he was held in "horrendous conditions" and Benedetto claims he was physically assaulted by an officer.
New York City has extremely restrictive gun laws. In order to legally carry a concealed weapon in the Big Apple, the person must be a resident of New York State and have a permit issued by the state and the city.
The Argus Leader reports Benedetto is suing for compensatory and punitive damages; the lawsuit does not mention an amount.
MSNBC quotes Steven Sanford, Benedetto's attorney, as saying, They [Delta] go to some effort to advise travelers about rules in some places—gun laws in Great Britain and other places—but omitted one of the most important. Once they say, 'Be advised,' they have a legal obligation to be accurate and complete.
The court will ultimately decide if airline passengers have any obligation to learn the law of the places they travel to or if the airline is solely responsible for providing that information.
Delta is refusing to comment because the matter is before the courts.