LAX shooting raises gun control debate, again: Balancing privacy and security in airports a challenge


Gun violence in this country has become a growing concern in recent years.

There is a growing sense of anxiety about events involving guns, and this has recently combined with the country’s post-9/11 anxieties.

On Friday, Nov. 1, a shooting took place at the Los Angeles International Airport. The gunman, who is suspected to be 23-year-old Paul Ciancia, opened fire at approximately 9 a.m. in Terminal 3.

He was carrying an assault rifle, which he used to kill 39-year-old Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officer Gerardo I. Hernandez, who was stationed at the elevator leading up to the security check point.

CBS News reported that J. David Cox Sr., president of the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), identified Hernandez as a behavioral detection officer. Hernandez is the first TSA employee to be killed on the job.

Ciancia made his way up to the security check point, where he fired upon agents and civilians alike, injuring other agents and at least one civilian.

LA Airport police chief Patrick Gannon told the press, “The officers didn’t, I repeat, they didn’t hesitate. They went after this individual and they confronted this individual.”

According to multiple reports on statements made by David L. Bowditch of the FBI, Ciancia had a handwritten note in his bag that made it clear he had intended to kill TSA employees.

There has been much speculation that Ciancia believes in a “New World Order” and that he is very anti-government.

CBS News also reported that law enforcement had informed them that Ciancia had been wounded and was in custody.

Ciancia is currently facing murder charges. California Public Radio reported that U.S. Magistrate Judge Charles Eick appointed a public defender to Ciancia’s case, hindering investigators’ hopes to interview him without any representation present. Additionally, he will not appear in court until doctors give him clearance.

While details of the tragedy continue to surface, the overall focus of the media’s coverage has to do with the safety of TSA employees and airport security in general.

In a press release issued on Nov. 4, J. David Cox Sr. stated, “We want to make sure we are doing everything possible to secure screening areas at our nation’s airports. 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. The development of a new class of TSA officers with law enforcement status would be a logical approach to accomplishing this goal.”

Airports have clearly upped security measures since 9/11 and LAX is no exception. In a 2011 Blue Ribbon Panel on Airport Security at Los Angeles International Airport reported that there had been a $1.6 billion investment in security since 9/11.

CBS News reported that after 9/11 there were airport police officers stationed behind each TSA screening point, but when Gannon became chief last year he changed this due to his belief that this method was too predictable and that officers were not able to move around as quickly.

While the amount of money invested into airport security has certainly made a reasonable impact on the safety of airports, and while Gannon’s changes to officer positions in LAX may or may not have been effective, there is no one to blame for incidents such as these.

No amount of safety measures can completely prevent against individuals such as Ciancia because the real problem is not airport safety nor is the solution to better equip the security officers who work there.

While this incident has drawn attention to security breaches that could be improved upon, individuals can still obtain deadly weapons far too easily.

Even so, there is a tendency in the media to focus on the problems with the person behind these violent acts. We are quick to ask questions such as, “What was wrong with him?” instead of asking questions of ourselves as a collective society.

A mass murder should not be the only event to make us question the ways in which we approach gun ownership.

A CBS News correspondent reported that Ciancia had enough ammunition with him to murder every individual in the terminal.

While we need to evaluate security measures in the aftermath of these types of events, we also need to promote effective discussion about gun control that can lead to conclusive legislation.

Security in airports is essential; however, there is no guarantee that extremely high security measures will prevent all violence.

It is impossible to say exactly what needs to be done in order to curb gun violence, but more restrictive gun laws and better attempts to shut down illegal gun markets certainly would not hurt.