Union calls for TSA agents to be armed

The union that represents Transportation Security Administration workers on Tuesday said some TSA agents at airports should be armed.

David Borer, the general counsel for the American Federation of Government Employees, said arming TSA agents is the only way to protect them from incidents like last week's shooting at the Los Angeles International Airport.

"Our officers are verbally assaulted everyday; they're physically assaulted far too often, and they need better protection at those checkpoints," Borer said during an interview with Federal News Radio.

"That's why we're advocating for a new class of officer who is trained as a law enforcement officer, has a weapon, has arrest authority and so forth to protect those checkpoints."

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The LAX shooting resulted in the death of one TSA agent and left two others wounded. The killing marked the first time a TSA agent had died in the line of duty.

Borer said Tuesday that the union's position on arming TSA agents going forward reflected how the agency's workers felt after the Los Angeles shooting.

"It's partly what members are telling us, and that is this latest incident is horrifying and extreme, but it's part of a larger problem," he said.

Critics have often accused TSA agents of violating the privacy rights of airline passengers with their security techniques, including pat-downs.

Borer blamed the anger that TSA agents face on "the right-wing media and certain members of Congress."

"Because of all of the vilification and hatred heaped upon both the agency and our officers … people show up at the airport every day angry before they even meet a TSA officer," he said.

Borer said that despite the perception that surrounds TSA employees, the agency's workers are currently ill-prepared to respond to an incident like Friday's shooting.

"That's a big misconception out there," he said. "[TSA agents] are trained to screen bags and screen passengers and detect a threat to air travel, but they are not trained law enforcement officers. They don't have law enforcement authority. When an incident begins like this, they're just in harm's way. They don't have any ability. In fact, it's against policy for them to respond to any sort of violent incident."