Airport security: What, if anything, should now be done?

TSA agents help passengers with baggage the day after a gunman entered Terminal 3 at Los Angeles International Airport. (John McCoy/Los Angeles Daily News)

What should be done about protecting lobbies, security checkpoints and roadways at airports? Is a change needed? Or are those areas as safe as they can be?

According to an NBC News story, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder told reporters Monday that something might need to be done. He noted that protecting those areas falls outside of the Transportation Security Administration’s mission.

“The function of TSA is to ensure that people can board planes safely, take flights safely,” Holder said, according to NBC. “The responsibility for protecting airports’ security is not a TSA function, but it’s something that we need to examine given what happened in Los Angeles,”

I spent Saturday speaking with security experts about what could be changed to make airports more secure. All of them agreed that the non-secure areas are difficult to keep safe. It could be done, of course, but it would require Americans to present themselves for far more thorough examinations than now. Also, they said, it would probably require America to change its attitude toward gun control, which seems entirely unlikely. (Appearing on television Sunday, Sen. Dianne Feinstein called this a gun control issue, according to Politico.)

Most other measures, the experts told me, would probably be more window dressing than anything else.

“When you have so many people concentrated in one place, you are going to have a high probability of an unlikely event,” said Harvey Molotch, a professor at New York University and author of “Against Security — How We Go Wrong at Airports, Subways and Other Sites of Ambiguous Danger.” “This was very mild compared to what happened in the past and what could happen. Anyone could mow people down in a shopping mall with a car, or put a bomb in a department store. There are so many ways of creating mayhem. It’s all a testimony to how routinely safe and secure we are in the United States.”

Of course, there’s another approach. The union representing TSA workers wants the government to arm some of them, according to this story in USA Today. 

What do you think should be changed?

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