The president of the union representing more than 45,000
J. David Cox Sr., president of the
"At this time, we feel a larger and more consistent armed presence in screening areas would be a positive step in improving security for both TSOs and the flying public," Cox said in a statement. "The development of a new class of TSA officers with law enforcement status would be a logical approach to accomplishing this goal."
The statement comes in the aftermath of Friday's
The idea of arming TSA agents has been raised before, according to aviation security consultant Stewart Verdery, a former
"It's always been raised as an issue," Verdery said. "We know that there are people that don't like the government, and TSA is a whipping boy for people angry about the overreach of the government. And we also know that terrorists are fascinated with aviation. It puts them on the front lines."
He said the decision not to arm airport security agents was made because protecting the airport is not their primary mission.
"You want to spend your time training TSA officers to look for dangerous weapons and dangerous people," he said. "Arming tens of thousands of agents who are largely dealing with average travelers is not necessary."
He noted that arming the agents would come at a high cost. The average annual cost of a TSA agent is less than half the cost of an armed law enforcement officer, he said.