in gunman’s attack
By Jeff Price POSTED: 11/09/2013 05:01:00 PM MST – Denver Post
TSA personnel comfort each other before the U.S. Honor Flag arrives at Los Angeles International Airport in memory of TSA agent Gerardo Hernandez on Nov. 6 in Los Angeles. (Brad Graverson, Pool/Getty Images)
The Nov. 1 shooting at Los Angeles International Airport is causing an entire industry to look at its practices.
From a pure aviation security perspective, the layered system worked. Since the late 1960s, aviation security regulations were designed to prevent hijackings or bombings of a commercial service aircraft. At LAX, while shooting suspect Paul Ciancia did allegedly cause death, injury and disruption of the aviation system, he did not reach the aircraft.
The industry knew this would happen someday. There have been notable attacks that are well-documented. Plus, a crowded passenger security checkpoint creates a tempting terrorist target.
Through the checkpoint, the Transportation Security Administration guards the “front door” to the aircraft, through which passengers and many employees must pass. The airport operator controls the back door, including employee access points. The airport operator is also responsible for providing police response to checkpoint and aircraft incidents and for protecting the facility itself from attacks, such as active shooters and bombs.
Would arming TSA screeners help prevent these shootings? I don’t think so. I am a firearm owner, trained both privately and in the military. I also have a permit to carry a concealed weapon — a right I exercise from time to time. That said, I still think it is a bad idea to arm TSA screeners. There are already police officers in the airport who are armed and are charged with protecting the public, including screeners. The response time in this shooting — 60 seconds — is extraordinary. Short of a personal bodyguard, there are just some things that are nearly impossible to prevent, and someone walking up to you, pulling out a gun and shooting you is one of them.
In the 1980s, I was a screener. It is a very stressful job and one that requires much concentration. I would rather have screeners focused on their task of checking bags and personnel rather than worry about weapon retention or having to take out an active shooter in a crowded screening checkpoint. Even if you were to arm just a few individuals, there are many additional issues that arise once you start handing out guns: logistics, training and retraining, certification, liability and the increased risk of an accidental discharge or a lost weapon.
I agree that screeners need to be protected, as does the general public when coming into an airport. There are other, lower-cost and lower-risk methods to provide that level of protection. Essentially, three things need to happen:
1. All airport personnel, including screeners, should be trained in basic suspicious awareness detection (i.e., the Israeli model), rather than having small teams of specially trained TSA personnel. TSA cannot be everywhere all the time, and training everyone is a force multiplier.
2.Screening personnel should be given basic self-defense training. In close proximity, most people won’t have time to draw a weapon but could be able to take one away or at least get out of the line of fire.
3. Airport police departments need to be given the full support of their elected and appointed officials in materials (automatic weapons and body armor), additional personnel, and training to provide force projection and response. These are steps similar to rules implemented at Rome’s Leonardo da Vinci International Airport after a shooting there in 1985.
LAX did it right. The system is designed to protect the aircraft, not to provide personal protection for everyone in the building. LAX had the resources, training and personnel to effect an immediate response. While a man was tragically killed and several others were injured, the layered system was effective in stopping the attacker from gaining access to the aircraft, which is what it was designed to do. But we all saw the impact to aviation from an airport shutdown. You don’t have to hijack or blow up planes to get the economic damage that the LAX shooter caused, not to mention the “education” the bad guys got from seeing vulnerabilities in the system.
While we all understand that you cannot protect all of the people all of the time — whether it’s in a school, a movie theater, a church or a shopping mall — Gerardo Hernandez’s death should not go unnoticed. The system can do a better job at protecting individuals in the terminal and public areas, before there is a larger scale assault.
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