Should Some Transportation Security Administration Agents Be Armed?

 proposal to create a unit of trained officers to be stationed at every airport security checkpoint has recently been renewed by Jeffrey David Cox, Sr. — who is president of a union known as the American Federation of Government Employees, which represents employees of federal agencies such as the Transportation Security Administration — as a result of a machete attack at the international airport which serves the greater metropolitan area of New Orleans.

Cox has been stressing the need that Transportation Security Administration agents be armed; as well as for their placement at every airport security checkpoint in the United States ever since the death of Gerardo I. Hernandez, who was an agent of the Transportation Security Administration who was only 39 years old and a father of two children.

As I first reported in this article, Hernandez was allegedly killed by a gunman at point-blank range at the security checkpoint of Terminal 3 at Los Angeles International Airport on Friday, November 1, 2013. Two other agents of the Transportation Security Administration and a teacher were injured; while Paul Anthony Ciancia — the suspect who allegedly shot the victims with a Smith & Wesson .223-caliber M&P-15 assault rifle — was in critical condition as a result of injuries sustained from being shot by police.

Ciancia survived his injuries and pleaded in August of 2014 that he was not guilty in that incident.

Eric H. Holder, Jr. — who is the Attorney General of the United States — “made the final decision” for federal prosecutors to seek the death penalty against Ciancia by alleging that the actions committed by Ciancia were “intentional and occurred after ‘substantial planning and premeditation’”, according to this article written by Kate Mather and Richard Winton for the Los Angeles Times.

The motive by Ciancia — who was charged with 11 federal counts in connection with the incident — was supposedly 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.

As a result of that incident, a bill known as the Gerardo Hernandez Airport Security Act of 2014 was introduced last year in order to enhancing security at airports under the purview of the Transportation Security Administration; requiring having appropriate response plans; sharing best practices with each airport; and reporting to members of the House of Representatives of the United States on the capacity of the response teams of law enforcement, fire and medical departments to communicate and respond to threats of security at the airports.

Cox is not the only person who has been 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 either of these incidents from occurring. Remember, Ciancia was reportedly undertaking a suicide mission…

…and both members of the House of Representatives of the United States and officials of the Transportation Security Administration have a history of being reluctant to arm agents of the Transportation Security Administration. Airports in the United States already have law enforcement officers dedicated to patrolling those airports to carry weapons and arrest suspects.

Richard White — the suspect in the machete incident at New Orleans International Airport — was shot three times by law enforcement officers and was eventually pronounced dead; but not before one agent of the Transportation Security Adminstration suffered from an injury to her arm. There was reportedly evidence that White — who was 63 years old — was carrying flammable materials which could be used to create bombing devices. No other fatalities were reported as a result of this incident

In my opinion, I am not sure that an armed agent of the Transportation Security Administration could have handled this incident any better than the law enforcement officers who came to the scene.

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 ones at Los Angeles International Airport and New Orleans International Airport.

While what both Ciancia and White 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 experiences of traveling through airport security checkpoints in the United States in recent years have been rather pleasant, for the most part — 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…

…although starting this month, the Transportation Security Administration is implementing changes where if you are not currently a member of a Trusted Traveler Program — such as Global Entry, NEXUS, SENTRI or the TSA Pre✓ program — you will most likely notice a decrease in the number of times you are selected for expedited screening.

This is due to an increase in the number of passengers who are eligible — a milestone was reached where greater than one million travelers are now enrolled in the program, according to this announcement released on Tuesday, March 24, 2015; and there are no immediate plans to expand the number of TSA Pre✓ lanes — as well as an increase in the number of passengers who pay to participate in Trusted Traveler Programs, which I do not intend to do.

I am not saying that more pleasant experiences passing through airport security checkpoints would definitely have prevented the aforementioned incidents from happening — Ciancia reportedly committed himself to purposely wanting to shoot and kill agents of the Transportation Security Administration — but it is indeed possible…

…unlike arming agents of the Transportation Security Administration with guns, which in my opinion is duplicating the purpose of law enforcement officers.

What are your thoughts?

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