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American Federation of Government Employees is calling for a new class of armed TSA agents

City News Service | 11/4/2013, 2:04 p.m.

LOS ANGELES, Calif. — In response to the fatal shooting at Los Angeles International Airport, the union representing Transportation Security Administration officers called today for the establishment of a new class of armed officers with law enforcement powers as a means of improving airport security.

J. David Cox, national president of the American Federation of Government Employees, said the development of a new class of TSA officers would create “a larger and more consistent armed presence in screening areas” and would be “a positive step” in improving security for TSA agents — such as Gerardo I. Hernandez, who was shot and killed by a gunman at LAX Friday — and the flying public.

“... The sad truth is that our TSA officers are subject to daily verbal assaults and far too frequent physical attacks while performing their security duties,” Cox said.

The federation represents all 45,000 TSA officers, none of whom are currently armed on the job.

Attorney General Eric Holder appeared to agree with the concept of re-examining the role of TSA officers.

“The responsibility for protecting airports is not a TSA function,” Holder said at a news conference. “But it’s something that we need to examine, given what happened in Los Angeles.”

But the union representing 400 Los Angeles airport police officers and firefighters disagreed with the proposal, claiming it would take too long to implement.

Marshall McClain, president of the Los Angeles Airport Peace Officers Association, said mandatory state standards require at least two years from job application to full qualification for law enforcement officers in California.

McClain said the number of airport police working at LAX has been reduced over the past three years.

“It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to create a new version of the TSA to do what our local law enforcement is already trying to do and has already done,” McClain said.

Paul Ciancia, the 23-year-old man accused of shooting and killing the TSA officer, was shot four times by airport police.

Ciancia was carrying a handwritten letter that said he was specifically targeting TSA officers.