Screeners With Guns - Worst Idea Revisited

Ordinarily I try not to extend these columns to a previous issue, but this one just hangs on like that bad odor in your basement.  Recall that the recent shooter event at LAX has brought out the Congressional grand-standers and the 2nd amendment zealots, seeking to provide your friendly body-patter-downer with a weapon – yes, a gun, just in case you don’t empty all those pockets.  Apparently the shooter had stated he was angry with a TSO and wanted to do him harm – (sounds awfully familiar) but it’s not clear if it was something job-related, or a personal beef, or just plain mental case.  Still, that seems to argue for more gun control, not more gun proliferation.  I think the Law Enforcement Officers at LAX did a remarkably good job putting that guy down and minimizing the damage done. Does anyone see TSA possibly doing a better job?  Or, as has been said, is it just another jobs program like those crime-stopper BDOs, who would then have their hands on a weapon while questioning you about why you need that bottle of lotion in your tote bag.

Nonetheless, the TSA union chief, J. David Cox, now wants screeners to be armed to protect themselves, and presumably the checkpoints and the traveling public.  Notwithstanding the fact that every airport already has, by law and by regulation, an armed complement of police officers with arrest authority (which TSA does not), an interesting new angle comes to light:  If they are armed, it moves them to a different pay scale, retirement plan and retirement age (50).  This is why all the immigration and customs officers got armed.  Almost zero threat or chance that they would have to use a firearm, and yet they all got the new classification. Gee, do you think the union was aware of the different job classifications opportunity knocking? 

I’ll give TSA management some back-door credit; they have not (yet) been vocal on either side of the issue, neither supporting nor decrying the proposal; it’s been the union and several ill-advised Members of Congress – the same folks that gave us TSA and DHS regulations and requirements in the first place, which has proven over the last 12 years to be less than an ideal government employer.  It’s an agency that dependably ends up every year at or very near the bottom of all government agency employee job satisfaction ratings, which in turn results in one of the highest turnover rates.  Yeah, that’s what we need – lots more demonstrably dissatisfied and angry people with badges and guns in a high stress and high-density environment where they don’t like their often confrontational jobs, hitting the streets every night.  And it’s interesting to note that GAO is currently investigating the necessity for two DHS contracts for ammunition that would result in purchases of up to 1.2 billion rounds of ammo… so now the TSOs and BDOs won’t run short after a hard night of luggage-diving and high-threat pat-downs – with the threat going in the wrong direction.

To quote a colleague who is a former Secret Service agent and former airline security executive, “the concept of arming TSA is just plain frightening!”   I need much stronger language than that, and you know that little thing in your head that stops you when you shouldn’t say something?  Yeah – I don’t have one of those….