Union calls for TSA agents to be armed - FOX 32 News Chicago

Union calls for TSA agents to be armed

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

In the wake of last Friday's shooting at Los Angeles International Airport, there's a growing debate about whether some TSA officers should be armed with guns.

The shootings at LAX took the life of one TSA officer and wounded two others. The shooter was taken out though by law enforcement officers, who, unlike the TSA officers, were carrying guns. Now, the union representing TSA officers says some of them should be armed too.

Over the next two months, there will no doubt be crowds of holiday travelers at O'Hare and Midway terminals, standing in long lines to check in, pass through security and board their flights.

It's exactly the type of setting where anti-terrorism expert Tom Mockaitis says the fewer guns, the better.

"I envision if you take a look at the overcrowded airport on any busy day or particularly during the holidays, can you imagine what a shootout would look like," Mockaitis says.

Mockaitis believes arming TSA screeners increases the chances for such a shootout, and would be a big mistake.

The president of the union representing TSA officers, J. David Cox, disagrees. After the shootings at LAX, he said screeners are "subject to daily verbal assaults and far too frequent physical attacks..." and he said some TSA screeners should be upgraded to law enforcement status, so there'd be at least one armed TSA officer at every security checkpoint.

Travelers at O'Hare seemed to favor the idea.

"We do have the right to stay protected, and if TSA agents are able to do so, I'm all for it," one traveler told FOX 32.

"I was surprised to hear that they didn't have any weapons, to be honest," another passenger said. "I thought that because they are security, they should have security gear on them.

Mockaitis though, says a TSA screener with some additional weapons training doesn't have nearly the experience possessed by most full time cops. Tasers, instead of guns, might be a better solution, he says. TSA officers having to put up with a lot of cranky travelers is no reason to add more weapons to the mix.

"Airline ticket agents deal with unstable, belligerent individuals, on a daily basis who are angry because their flights have been cancelled," he says. "The baggage department deals with that too. You don't see them requesting guns."

As for the TSA, a spokesperson told FOX 32 that TSA officers are supposed to guarantee that nobody gets on a plane with a dangerous device. Airport security is up to local officials, but the TSA will review its policies and work with the congress to determine how to get the best possible security.

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