LAX Shooting Prompts Security Suggestions
Friday morning's shooting at Los Angeles International Airport left Transportation Security Administration officer Gerardo I. Hernandez dead and two other officers wounded. In the aftermath, the two most-asked questions have been what caused 23-year-old Paul Ciancia to allegedly open fire in the airport and how can similar tragedies be prevented.
Better coordination between TSA officers and local law enrichment "is key," House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul said Sunday on CNN's "State of the Union." The Texas Republican also said he advised TSA Administrator John Pistole to increase the use of Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response teams that perform random baggage and security checks.
The president of the American Federation of Government Employees, the union that represents TSA employees, called for armed security guards at every airport checkpoint. Security screeners have not requested to carry guns themselves, but they do want an armed security officer present at every checkpoint, J. David Cox Sr. told USA Today.
Houston-based security consultant, Issy Boim, a former El Al sky marshal, concurred with Cox's call for armed guards. He told Condé Nast Traveler he suggests also installing more physical barriers, training more people to watch for suspicious behavior and using motion-detection cameras to monitor for suspicious or unusual movements.
As for LAX in particular, the Los Angeles Times reports that "experts have long said that lobbies, ticketing counters, baggage claim areas and sidewalks of the nine terminals at Los Angeles International Airport are easily accessible to attackers intent on bringing firearms or bombs into the airport's public areas." Brian Jenkins, a terrorism and aviation security expert at Rand Corp., a Santa Monica, Calif.-based think tank, however, told the paper that creating a fail-safe security perimeter for the terminal would be costly and might just shift attacks to other public places.
Tiffany Hawk, a former flight attendant and author of a novel about airline culture doesn't think arming TSA agents is the answer. For CNN, she writes:
I can understand the urge to react, to grasp at anything that might protect travelers. I too want air travel to be safe; hell, my husband is a pilot. But arming screeners at checkpoints well away from the airfield wouldn't be just another of the many precautions the airlines have taken to avert large-scale terrorism. It would simply be about protecting people from something that is everywhere in America: gun violence -- yes, at airports, and also at schools, at movie theaters, and malls. If you're the kind of person who thinks that every teacher and hall monitor and mall cop and cinema usher should be armed, then you'll probably feel safer if we give guns to TSA officers. And maybe flight attendants and customer service reps and baggage handlers. And probably bus drivers and ballpark ticket takers, and hospital staff.
In a similar vein, The Guardian's Michael Cohen noted that the first TSA agent "to be killed in the line of duty was not slain by an al-Qaida terrorist, but rather by an American with a gun." While not explicitly stating that arming security checkpoints was a bad idea, he questioned the United States's focus on preventing terrorist attacks but not gun violence:
TSA restrictions are frustrating and time-consuming, but they are hardly onerous. While there have been occasional complaints about the infringement on personal freedom and the inconvenience that TSA screening represents, Americans have, by and large, accepted their presence as the price that must be paid to protect the nation against terrorism. This begs the question, however: why do Americans accept such restrictions – to combat a threat that barely exists – and recoil at the notion of placing similar restrictions on guns, which kill 2,000 times more Americans every year than terrorism?