LAX Shooting Renews Debate About Armed Officers in U.S. Airports

Death of TSA officer Gerardo Hernandez prompts discussion about having armed officers at airport security screening stations

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Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images

TSA agents walk on the departures level a day after a shooting that killed one TSA worker and injured several others at Los Angeles International Airport Nov. 2, 2013 in Los Angeles, California

Friday’s fatal shooting of a Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officer at Los Angeles International Airport has renewed the debate about posting armed guards at airport security screening stations. In the wake of the attack, security officials are discussing a variety of options — from arming some TSA employees to keeping armed police officers closer to checkpoints — in an effort to improve airport security.

After the 9/11 terrorist attacks, armed officers were commonly posted at airport screening stations; but over time, and as budgets tightened, airport police took on more of a patrolling presence. After Friday’s shooting, TSA administrator John Pistole said the agency would review how it works with airport police and discuss overall security with Congress.

Part of that discussion previously centered on how close to screening stations airport police officers need to remain while patrolling terminals and performing routine duties. LAX has roughly 400 police officers who are responsible for security of the airport, while TSA officials have said their primary responsibility is keeping guns and explosives off airplanes.

“Our officers were deployed where they were supposed to be,” LAX Police Chief Patrick Gannon told the Wall Street Journal, explaining that the terminal’s police were about 60 seconds behind the shooter when he broke through the checkpoint.

Paul Anthony Ciancia, the alleged shooter, has been charged with two felony counts, including killing a federal employee in the line of duty, which could carry the death penalty. TSA officer Gerardo Hernandez died in the attack. The FBI said Ciancia had a handwritten letter stating he wanted to kill TSA officers and “instill fear in your traitorous minds.” Airport police shot Ciancia four times, including in the mouth, and according to the AP, he remains sedated and under guard at a local hospital.

24 comments
Gabbie
Gabbie

only in America this happens, in other countries there's shooting because of robbery or gangs and here in the USA because people have so much hate... Everyone should respect each other and this would not happen in America.

kolagunta
kolagunta

Terror seems omnipresent, leading to almost 15 % of the working population engaged in preventing it. The figure is increasing by the day and is estimated to reach the 30% mark by 2030, if no measures are taken to curtail it. The airport shooting seems the work of perverted individuals who have been brain washed by the terror merchants. These individuals are doing this for the thrill of killing and also committing suicide. Their numbers are also growing rapidly, for want of preventive measures. Unfortunately today terrorism has become an economic activity and some states, like Pakistan, are basically running their economy using the terror machine. This state is also into exporting terror in a big way. The sad part of the story is that the US is indirectly helping Pakistan to grow terror and export it, to the detriment  of world peace. It is equally affecting the US economy since it is spending for fighting the terror while aiding to abet it. To add to this illegal dollars are flowing into the terror zones in return for illegal drugs. Today we have terror mongers spread across continents as individuals in your backyard and loosely organized groups, creating havoc in the society. Human resource is wasted on terror and terror related activities. The situation cannot be reversed by fighting terror. It needs starving the terror machine of its fuel. The US needs to lead in the process of starving.   

Mattyster
Mattyster

Yes of course there's a call to arm them.  Any time there is a high-profile shooting the NRA and its supporters are all over it to arm more people.  Where are the statistics showing there are less shootings as a result of arming the world?  Oh, right... those statistics can't be published because they've been suppressed by the gun lobby because, guess what, in the REAL world more guns = more shootings.

BillCarson
BillCarson

yes, arm them so they can shoot you if you piss them off for commenting about them stealing from your luggage.

CaraClaudel
CaraClaudel

Just let the law-abiding citizens who want to carry guns carry them.

w.darby95
w.darby95

No, it is not time to arm the TSA. It is time to get rid of the TSA.  TSA is the result of a knee jerk reaction to 9/11.  TSA personnel are NOT graduates of the  law enforcement portion of the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, or other law enforcement academy, which is why they do not carry firearms and do not have arrest authority.  Airport security in America needs to be radically rethought and the first step is getting rid of TSA. 

cambo
cambo

100,000 sex assaults committed on children by TSA workers, only one dead? Interesting ratio.

AnnFountain
AnnFountain

Benjamin Franklin They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety. 

The death of the TSA agent was sad, but the TSA should never have existed and the idea of arming them is totally wrong. 

CharlesRayBatchelor
CharlesRayBatchelor

Some TSA Agents are armed.  They fall under the Special Agent (Same category that FBI, Secret Service, CID, NCIS, & NSA Agents Fall under), most do not.

SteveNJennifer
SteveNJennifer

Unfortunately, being armed, would not have changed the outcome of this unfortunate event.

seizeabe
seizeabe

To watch the passengers scrambling for their life at LAX, terrified, was saddening!

What have we transformed our nation into?

With the status continuing, is anything going to change?

Is this what we call a civilized or cultured nation?

Imagine what the world is thinking of us right now!

Think!

Who's responsible for making this scary situation?

It is not safe at the school, airport, hospital, mall, college...

Nowhere!

Is this the free world ? Is this freedom?

jason024
jason024

"Part of that discussion previously centered on how close to screening stations airport police officers need to remain while patrolling terminals and performing routine duties."

----------------

This is what we need to discuss NOT arming TSA agents. 

Bullsgt
Bullsgt

I couldn't agree with @relcontrario more. Do not arm more people, take a step back and address why this person was armed in the first place. 

ozette11
ozette11

Please do not even think about that. TSA is one the most hated government bureaucracies. We are all sorry about the death of one TSA employee, but using that as a reason to arm them is unacceptable. Considering the resentment that many of them hold for the public which has been fostered by  Pistole and the coinciding resentment of the public a future shooting mistake is very likely. Many of TSA employess are older people who do not have the physical alertness needed in handling a weapon. Let’s face it TSA employess are not high quality in educattion or physical abilities. Aside from that even having armed guard at each station would give the TSA a sense of having more power and make going through the line even more humilating. It would make the airport look like it was under siege. Every time something is added to a bureaucracy it remains forever. Bureaucracies become like living things that will fight anything that threatens them. Have you  heard of a government agency offer to lower it’e budget???

rohit57
rohit57

One of our problems as a country is that we insist on perfection.  If a single person dies, or a single bad thing happens, we consider it intolerable and want to change the entire system.  But no system is perfect and a new system can bring its own problems.

Thus our obsession with safety has brought us the NSA with its snooping in all our lives.

Accept the fact that no system is perfect, that all of us are subject to old age, illness and death. 

I agree with relcontrario that "arming all TSA agents would be a very bad idea".

daridekas
daridekas

It is really sad to realise that there are crazy people all around us and a little by little their madness starts to influence our own lives and our own ways of living.admin2:invetrics

relcontrario
relcontrario

This event must be considered in its real context, that is, it was an isolated event caused by an apparently mentally unstable person.  Overreacting to that isolated event would be a bad idea.  Arming specific TSA agents may be a reasonable idea if trained police cannot be at all entry areas, but arming all TSA agents would be a very bad idea.

Yoshi
Yoshi

What's the debate? Regular cops carry sidearms to protect themselves, why not these federal cops? They could carry .40 cal.pistols. Wasn't that the point of the government ordering over a billion rounds of .40HP ammuntion?

wineguy999
wineguy999

@Yoshi relcontrario responded, but not in plain enough English.

TSA screeners ARE NOT COPS! They are not trained as police officers, and many (most?) do not have the education and/or experience required to be trained as a police officer. Sadly, they are already given inflated ideas of their importance due to the power they have to control people through intimidation.

relcontrario
relcontrario

@Yoshi It would be a bad idea for a number of reasons.  1st, it would require a huge training budget for an almost nonexistent threat.  The main job of TSA agents is not law enforcement but screening passengers.  It is extremely rare that they need use firearms.  Thus training them for such a task is a huge waste of taxpayer money.  2nd, it would put far more people at risk.  Many of the TSA agents would not be qualified to carry firearms (and if you have traveled, you would realize you don't want all these people carrying guns).

This isolated event doesn't require the training of thousands of TSA agents to carry firearms, a project which will cost taxpayers billions for no discernable positive effect.

JimErne
JimErne

@Mattyster@camboI guess he must be roughly estimating the number of body cavity searches on minors since 9/11.  I would imagine that there have been at least 10,000 per year or more, so it doesn't seem totally implausible.  If you include all the minors that go through the body scanners as victims of "child pornography" due to the pictures of their naked bodies being seen, the number of sex crimes would likely reflect almost everyone under age 18 who passed through security over the last decade.  So... how many children were subjected to that?  A couple million?

CharlesRayBatchelor
CharlesRayBatchelor

@relcontrario @Yoshi TSA Screeners and TSA Agents are two different jobs, TSA Screeners are a non-Law Enforcement Position i.e. no Arrest powers under Federal Law.  TSA Agents are Federal Law Enforcement Officers with all arrest powers, it is them who arrest people are "acting" up at the screening locations, they dress the same for the most part so it's hard to spot them.  For the record, the "acting" up portion of the above comment is an endorsement for or against either those "acting" up or TSA doing its job. 

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