Should TSA Officers be Armed?

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This topic contains 14 replies, has 8 voices, and was last updated by  Henry Brown 5 years, 1 month ago.

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  • #180695

    David B. Grinberg

    In the wake of the senseless and cowardly TSA shooting at LAX some influential voices are asking this question:

    • Is it time to arm TSA officers at airport security checkpoints?
    • What do you think? Why or why not?

    Please share your views below…

  • #180723

    Henry Brown

    MY opinion!

    Lets see one TSA officer killed by an apparently wacko individual in 11 years at an airport….

    Cost of arming and training Thousands of Baggage screeners $Millions

    Most Airports including LAX have a significant trained armed presence to limit carnage throughout the airport…

  • #180721

    Scott Kearby

    No, let TSA focus on their core responsibility.

    BUT the airport operators should review their current security staffing and scheme to determine if it makes good sense to post some armed security in vicinity of the checkpoints. If someone is going for mass casualties, the checkpoint is a good target … there are crowds (lots of targets in a small area) & it is located prior to the heavy screening so the attacker has the opportunity to approach undetected.

    I remember travelling to Europe in the 80’s and seeing police officers or security officers in the airports carrying automatic weapons … it was a clear deterent in my opinion. After 9/11 we also had the National Guard in our domestic airports carrying M-16s and M-4s. With trained and armed personnel visible, what may have appeared to be a soft target & attractive to an attacker is now significantly hardened and chance of successful attack is decreased.

  • #180719

    I’m with the rest, NO. TSA is already precieved, rightly or wrongly, as a bunch of “wannabe cops” and jackbooted thugs in training. As a former LEO (city) Frankly these guys would require an entire new academy before arming them… In this era of masive bloat in budgets lets not create an entire new law enforcement or armed guard group to further the bloat.

  • #180717

    Mark Hammer

    Public policy based around isolated recent events is generally not particularly well-drafted policy. Granted, public policy sometimes does need to respond to circumstances, but proactive policy is usually better than reactive policy.

  • #180715

    David Dean

    Contract with local law enforcement they are well trained. TSA employees, they are not law enforcement, are trained to grope people and search luggage. Many have applied for law enforcement jobs and have been rejected. Research and look at the criminal incidents, many felonies, committed by TSA employees.

    If a city, county, or state police officer violates your Constitutional rights you can sue the employees and the employing agency in federal court, see USA Title 42, Chapter 21, Section 1983, the Civil Rights Act of 1871. You cannot, except under rare circumstances, sue a federal employee. You are pretty limited to The Federal Torts Claims Act, and the US Supreme Court Case, Bivens v Six Unknown Agents.

    Yes, I do have a low opinion of TSA.

  • #180713

    Earl Rice


    I have to agree with you and share your opinion. Under no circumstances would I trust a TSA employee with a gun. Not even a toy rubber gun. (I say that bearing in mind that in a former career, I was a police officer…yes I have done many things in my life). If they tried to do the required background checks to arm the TSA employees, enforce physical standards (let alone physical fitness standards), they would loose half the TSA employees right off the bat. That’s even before they would send them to some sort of a law enforcement training facility. Seriously, go to Baltimore-Washington and walk around and look at the TSA employees. Not much different in Chicago, Atlanta, St Louis, Denver….and the list goes on. Just the thought of TSA people carry weapons makes me more afraid of them than Al Qaida. I would give up flying all together, unless I flew myself, if TSA employees are armed.

  • #180711

    Earl Rice

    I was in Germany at that time. I remember the Bundesgrenzschutz patrolling the airports with their MP5’s, a pistol, and 90% of the time with their German Shepherds (and they weren’t drug dogs). Talk about a deterrent. Between them and the Polizei, there was enough firepower only a mad man would try something. These were highly trained professionals. The BGS was almost another branch of the Military, and still provide special forces units.

  • #180709

    David B. Grinberg

    I think it’s worth examining the pros and cons of allowing somenot all — TSA officers to carry firearms at security checkpoints.

    Even though TSA often gets a bad rap it’s worth noting that there are former law enforcement and retired military personnel included within the large TSA workforce. These folks already have the necessary firearms training and real world experience of using firearms in challenging situations.

    Moreover, AFGE General Counsel David Borer told Federal News Radio:

    • “Our officers are verbally assaulted everyday; they’re physically assaulted far too often, and they need better protection at those checkpoints.”

    • “That’s why we’re advocating for a new class of officer who is trained as a law enforcement officer, has a weapon, has arrest authority and so forth to protect those checkpoints.”

    It’s also worth noting that regular airport security may be spread thin due to scarce budget resources at the federal, state and local levels. This makes some security checkpoints “soft targets” for those who wish to inflict mass casualties. For example, if the LAX gunman was shooting people at random — rather than targeting TSA only — it’s possible many more innocent civilians would have been killed or seriously wounded.

    Therefore, establishing a class of some TSA officers with weapons might help the overall security situation at airports, particularly at densely packed security checkpoints.

    As Attorney General Eric Holder said (video):

    • “The responsibility for protecting airport security is not a TSA function, but something I think we need to certainly examine.”

    • “The investigation’s obviously under way and a part of that investigation will be to review the security measures that were in place, not only at LAX, but I think a review of the security arrangements that exist in other airports, as well.”

  • #180707

    David B. Grinberg

    Thanks for the comments, Mark and Henry.

    I would note, however, that what may start out as a reactive policy can transition into a proactive policy which — in this situation — may buttress existing security to benefit the general public.

    The other end of this spectrum entails maintaining the status quo until a potentially much worse incident occurs that prompts an even more reactive policy.

    In other words, what may appear to be an isolated incident today may become a disturbing trend tomorrow. Just something to ponder.

  • #180705

    Terrence Hill

    I agree with Henry. The cost of arming, training, and paying additional compensation, as well as the risk of accidental shootings, does not justify the benefit of having armed officers. The answer is not always more firearms, but better deployment of existing resources.

  • #180703

    Scott Kearby

    I don’t know that it is wise to develop multiple groups of armed security teams … each may have different objectives, different training, different procedures, different schemes of command & control, different missions. I think that whichever organization is responsible & accountable for security of the airport facility should organize, train, equip and control the armed security personnel. That squares with the time-tested military principle “unity of command”. I think this is not TSA, but the airport owner/operator. Of course all involved should work together to coordinate their activities so that we have a comprehensive & integrated system.

    One thing I did find interesting on the TSA website … TSA identifies many layers of security, but I don’t see local airport security or law enforcement anywhere on the graphic. That is a gap that should be closed.

  • #180701

    Mark Hammer

    Maybe. Trouble is that the competency profile for an optimal TSA officer may be very different than what you want/need for an armed officer.

    About a decade back, I attended a talk by a Swiss cognitive psychologist, contracted by the Canadian equivalent of the TSA, on how they assess and select baggage screeners. VERY impressive, and a very unusual set of skills. I thought drug-sniffing dogs were special. These folks are extra-special. Being able to identify individual bomb-making components stuffed in between electric razors, or underwire bras, or headphones, or laptop chargers, or sextoys,…in an x-ray, is not the sort of skill you easily run into on the street. Can you find folks with those skills in the same package as someone willing and able to responsibly handle a sidearm? I don’t know.

    That’s the problem with reactive policy; we’re motivated to think that some things are easier, and less problematic, than they might actually be, and less motivated to look exhaustively for the niggling details that cause those problems.

  • #180699

    Henry Brown

    Interesting view point from the Security Director News Blog

    Jeffrey Hawkins
    American Military University

    The attack on at a TSA security checkpoint Nov. 1 at Los Angeles International Airport seems to have shocked the media, politicians and the general public.

    There is a false sense of security that has been created by investing billions of dollars in creating TSA and security checkpoints after 9/11.

    Up until last week’s attack at LAX, many people really thought that they were safe from all threats at airports, and that could not be further from the truth.

    Any metal detector/security checkpoint, be it at airports or elsewhere, without armed officers places everyone in jeopardy.

  • #180697

    David B. Grinberg

    Just an FYI that there are at least 23 additional comments to this discussion on the LinkedIn group “U.S. Department of Homeland Security – DHS”

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