The union representing the often-criticized TSA and its 45,000 employees is calling for the creation of a class of employees whom would carry guns, undergo law enforcement training, and have the authority to arrest people.
The union calling for the change is the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE). AFGE is proposing the idea in the wake of last week’s LAX shooting at a security checkpoint that killed a TSA officer and injured two passengers.
"The sad truth is that our TSA officers are subject to daily verbal assaults and far too frequent physical attacks," said AFGE President Jeffrey David Cox Sr. "We feel a larger and more consistent armed presence in screening areas would be a positive step."
The idea will be considered by the House Homeland Security subcommittee. The subcommittee, comprised primarily of House Republicans, is not expected to embrace the idea of arming TSA agents. For years, conservative legislators have been heavily critical of the agency.
Rep. Richard Hudson (R-NC), who chairs the subcommittee, told Politico recently that he opposes arming TSA agents.
“There are practical, risk-based steps that can be taken to combat potential attacks without arming 45,000 TSA screeners,” Hudson said. “In the wake of this attack it is of critical importance to review coordination and communication between TSA and local police, whose job it is to protect airports, as well as review TSA’s own programs for detecting and disrupting terrorist attacks.”
Meanwhile the committee’s top Democrat, Rep. Cedric Richmond (R-LA), said focusing only on arming TSA officers while not improving other aspects of airport security is too narrow of a solution.
“What if he just went to the baggage claim?” Richmond said of the LAX shooter. “It has to be broader than just the checkpoint. You want to have a safe place from the parking garage to the airplane.”