Should Transportation Security Administration Agents Be Armed?

Paul Anthony Ciancia is the suspected gunman in the shooting which occurred at Los Angeles International Airport on Friday, November 1, 2013 where an agent of the Transportation Security Administration was killed. Could his actions prompt calls for agents of the Transportation Security Administration to be armed? Photograph courtesy of the Federal Bureau of Investigation of the United States. Click on the photograph to access the source of the photograph.

As you may have heard regarding the shooting incident at Los Angeles International Airport on Friday, November 1, 2013, Gerardo I. Hernandez — an agent of the Transportation Security Administration who was only 39 years old — was killed by a gunman at the security checkpoint of Terminal 3.

At least seven people were injured, including another agent of the Transportation Security Administration; while Paul Anthony Ciancia — the suspect who allegedly shot the victims and is 23 years old — is currently in critical condition as a result of injuries sustained from being shot be police. It is unknown at this time whether or not Ciancia survived his injuries.

The motive by Ciancia was reportedly a suicide mission to deliberately take advantage of vulnerabilities at airport security checkpoints and target agents of the Transportation Security Administration with an assault weapon.

I suppose it was only a matter of time before an unfortunate incident such as this would happen. I am by no means a fan of the Transportation Security Administration — and yes, I agree that that federal agency of the United States has more than its fair share of problems — but shooting the agents who work for them is certainly not the answer.

Some people are calling upon security in general at airports to be improved. Could arming agents of the Transportation Security Administration with guns be a part of improving security at airports throughout the United States?

I say no, for the simple reason that I do not believe that armed Transportation Security Administration agents would have prevented this incident from occurring. Remember, Ciancia was reportedly undertaking a suicide mission.

Then again, I have also been against the idea of arming pilots with guns. The combination of reinforced doors, federal air marshals, and the awareness by passengers and members of the flight crew if anything unusual or out of the ordinary occurs — three of a number of potentially effective deterrents and measures towards more effective security  — is one of the reasons as to why I believe that the idea of pilots toting weapons is unnecessary.

Although I defend the right of people to bear arms in accordance with the Constitution of the United States of America, more guns are not the answer to a safe and civil society, in my opinion. To me, they potentially could lead to an unnecessary increase of loss of life, rather than act as a successful deterrent to more incidents such as the one at Los Angeles International Airport.

While what Ciancia did was irrational at best, the answer in my opinion is to improve the policies of the Transportation Security Administration so that the traveling public is inconvenienced as little as possible while moving through the airport security checkpoint as quickly as possible. Stop forcing people to take their shoes off. Allow passengers to carry a drink with them and carry essential liquids — such as shampoo and toothpaste — instead of limiting them or banning them. Most of all, a passenger should not feel like he or she is being assaulted or treated like a criminal when passing through an airport security checkpoint.

I must admit that my recent experiences of traveling through airport security checkpoints in the United States lately have been rather pleasant — especially when I am selected for TSA Pre✓ as an elite level member of a frequent flier loyalty program or have agents of the Transportation Security Administration help me pass through the airport security checkpoint as quickly as possible while being friendly and smiling as though I am a human being. I have even been using the old-fashioned screening devices and not those full-body scanning machines. No airplanes went down on any of those days.

Imagine that — a pleasant experience passing through an airport security checkpoint. It is indeed possible. There is no reason or excuse why that should not happen every single time.

I am not saying that more pleasant experiences passing through airport security checkpoints would definitely have prevented the shooting from happening last Friday — but it is indeed possible…

…unlike arming agents of the Transportation Security Administration with guns. That is little more that a recipe for potential disaster, in my opinion.

What are your thoughts?

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Comments (Showing 11 of 11)

  • mlbach at 7:14am November 04, 2013

    The senseless killing of Mr. Hernandez leads us all to wonder what could have been done differently. Some airports, like those in the Middle East & some in Africa, require you to go through scanners prior to entering the airport. But, just how far do we go to stop this type of activity by rogue gunmen who are looking for attention? I would contend that there will always be away for some to get around the system.

    One thing we can’t do is to arm TSA. First of all, not everyone is capable & willing to carry a firearm. TSA Agents are hired and tested on their ability to follow orders, not to think outside the box. There is no way the TSA can train agents who would be allowed to carry. This would be like teaching right handed people how to throw a baseball left handed. Even asking supervisors is not a good idea.

    I’m also not a fan of arming the cockpit. While I trust the pilots mentality, I think we’re asking a lot to ask them to shoot across their body while flying an airplane, assuming someone gets into the cockpit.

    Those who are granted the right to carry firearms need to undergo diligent testing, both for these folks own good as well as everyone else. As one who is licensed to carry in a few states, I realize this is a priviledge I earned that has immense responsibility which cannot be taken lightly if I’m ever in a position to have to use it.

    Let’s look at everyway possible to keep passengers & TSA safe from rogue gunmen, but please lets rule out arming anyone as the answer.

  • LostInAmerica at 1:10pm November 04, 2013

    TSA are not trained law enforcement officers and should not be armed. Airports already have armed, and trained, LEOs. Arming the TSA would be no different than handing out guns to the general public. Not a good idea.

  • DENROC at 1:57pm November 04, 2013

    Absolutely not

  • drminn at 1:57pm November 04, 2013

    Let’s not call for arming every group of people when one of its members is shot/killed. Who knows how many bystanders would have been killed or hurt had there been a shootout between TSA agents and this nutcase. The problem lies elsewhere.

  • diburning at 2:43pm November 04, 2013

    No. TSA Agents are not trained law enforcement officers. They seem to have problems following protocol as well as respecting other people’s rights. They seem to like to play hero when they aren’t real officers. So, no, please do not arm them.

  • Nevafazeme at 6:18pm November 04, 2013

    No way, no how…should we EVER arm the TSA. I’m cringing just thinking about it.

  • disalex at 7:35pm November 04, 2013

    IMHO- each checkpoint needs to have at least 2 armed officers at the check point, anytime they are open. These could be local LEO’s or specially trained TSA agents. Certainly the rank and file TSA agents don’t need to be armed. Having them “In the airport” or wandering around the terminal is not sufficient.

  • rayraf at 7:58am November 05, 2013

    No way.
    Some of them already think they are generals in a uniform, barking at people because they just happen to have a badge.
    I can see a couple of them whipping a gun out on grandma because she can’t get out of her wheelchair fast enough.

  • Josh Davis at 8:18am November 05, 2013

    Consensus seems to be that shouldn’t carry guns if not trained law-enforcement officer. Wondering whether people hold this view more generally, or just on this thread?

    Seems to me no different than saying NOBODY should have a gun except a trained law-enforcement officer

  • rusrocket at 9:16am November 05, 2013

    Arming TSA agents? This can not be possibly a serious question. I don’t want to be shot by a TSA agent, do you?

  • Upgraded! at 12:34pm November 05, 2013

    Leaving aside (most of) my opinion about TSA in general (that it is a useless waste of taxpayer dollars and has done more to erode civil liberties than it has to protect the traveling public) I think that arming TSA screeners would be a colossal mistake.

    Those who carry firearms in the course of government service are, almost exclusively, law enforcement or military and have been trained extensively in their use (both how and when).

    From a logistical perspective, properly training TSA screeners in such a way would be a gargantuan undertaking: as of last year TSA had about 55k employees, while the FBI (whose agents have matriculated little by little over the years) has only 35k. Therefore you are talking about giving law enforcement level training to a group roughly 150% the size of the FBI.

    Furthermore, this would require a significantly more extensive background check of each person currently employed by, and seeking employment with, the agency. There are numerous employees of TSA who have been arrested for crimes directly related to their employment and even more whose criminal backgrounds are overlooked when seeking employment. Imagine the public outrage if that many agents of the FBI, Secret Service or US Marshalls were caught committing such acts? You hear about a few scandals every year, and they are a big deal.

    Finally, not only would armed TSA screeners not have prevented last week’s tragedy, it may have made it worse. Were those employees to have received substandard training it is likely that they would have hit bystanders while attempting to shoot the assailant. And let’s not forget, the attack did not succeed due to lack of guns in the airport; there are already airport police who have actual law enforcement training as well as powers.

    So to reiterate, I could go into a far more extensive explanation of why TSA employees should not be armed, but much of that would be colored by my personal bias against the agency. The above is just meant to outline some of the biggest reasons this would be a mistake.

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