Airports have been thought to be safe, given the level of government security. The TSA, created after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, has the job of keeping bad guys with weapons and bombs from boarding airplanes.
"TSA was put there to make sure that this sort of thing didn't happen on airplanes, and they succeeded," said George Hamlin, a former airline executive who runs Hamlin Transportation Consulting in Fairfax, Va. "But how do you protect the protectors?
"If you keep pushing the perimeter out, pretty soon we are trying to protect the entire world from itself," Hamlin said. "Privacy would be utterly out the window."
The accused shooter, Paul Ciancia, 23, of Pennsville, N.J., is charged with killing one TSA officer and wounding two TSA employees before he was shot by Los Angeles airport police.
TSA administrator John Pistole, who met Saturday with the slain officer's family, said the agency would discuss "writ large" security issues with Congress, including whether TSA officers should be armed.
The union representing 45,000 screeners at 440 U.S. airports wants armed law-enforcement officers at screening checkpoints nationwide.
"We believe they should be a new class of TSA officer," said David Borer, general counsel of the American Federation of Government Employees. "We aren't supporting arming the entire TSA workforce."
The union would like a law-enforcement component within the TSA workforce to provide better and more consistent security. "Friday's event was the most extreme, but our officers are verbally assaulted every day. They are frequently physically assaulted," Borer said.
If armed officers are deemed necessary, they should be a separate force, Hamlin agreed:
"The TSA has a job to do - screening - which requires concentration on a screen for periods of time. Do you want them also to be trained in weapons? This is not the Wild West."