Don’t arm more TSA guards: Our view

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Transportation Security Administration officers ride an escalator past a memorial at Terminal 3 at Los Angeles International Airport on Monday.

Transportation Security Administration officers ride an escalator past a memorial at Terminal 3 at Los Angeles International Airport on Monday.

In less than a week, two more disturbed young men with guns have wreaked havoc at two more very public locations.

On Friday, a lone gunman seeking to “instill fear” in the “traitorous minds” of Transportation Security Administration officers shot and killed one of them at a Los Angeles International Airport checkpoint. The gunman wounded two other officers and a teacherbefore he was shot by airport police. It could have been a lot worse.

OPPOSING VIEW: Create a new class of armed officers

On Monday, a gunman in a black motorcycle helmet walked into the largest shopping mall in New Jersey and opened fire. Terrified shoppers scattered. The 20-year-old shooter didn’t appear to be aiming at anyone, and no one was wounded. The shooter killed himself. That, too, could have been a lot worse.

Hard as it might be to acknowledge, there are no easy ways to end the carnage that the country has become all too used to witnessing. But it is easy to know what not to do: arm guards at every place mass shooters have struck. The list is impossibly long: Schools. Movie theaters. Sikh temples. Private offices. Hair salons. Political events and more. The cost would be prohibitive and the consequences unproductive at best.

Yet just as the National Rifle Association called for arming school guards and teachers after the Connecticut school tragedy in December, now the union representing TSA officers wants the government to train and deploy a cadre of armed TSA officers at airport checkpoints.

That’s a natural reaction to the tragic death of the first TSA officer killed in the line of duty. But the uniqueness of the event — a single incident in 12 years despite the TSA’s massive scale — argues for restraint.

The TSA was created to keep terrorists and their weapons off planes, and the agency is good at the job, despite the difficulty of coping with travelers who hurl insults and occasionally punches at its officers just for doing their jobs. They, like passengers, are protected by airport security officers and local police. If more protection is needed, that’s where it should be applied. A lunatic or a terrorist could attack anywhere at the airport, not just at checkpoints.

But the security perimeter that really matters lies far beyond the airport. It is the sketchy line between disturbed young men and deadly weapons.

In 10 mass shootings since 2009, mental health concerns about the shooter were raised with doctors, school officials or legal authorities before the shooting. In others, family or friends were worried that something was wrong. But the shooters were able to get a hold of weapons anyway, either by buying them or taking them from relatives.

Finding legal ways to keep firearms out of the hands of disturbed people is difficult. But it is more sensible than putting more and more guns into the hands of more and more people.

Courtesy of USA Today

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