Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said Congress needs to take a look at protecting Transportation Security Administration agents after the slaying of one at Los Angeles International Airport on Friday.
But when asked on CNN if they should be armed, she said, “No, not per se.”
“But I think there’s a problem there. I can understand how an armed police officer would not want to stand at a checkpoint for a full eight hours. Maybe they should be rotated in every two hours,” the senator added.
Paul Ciancia allegedly shot TSA officer Gerardo Hernandez first at the checkpoint where ID and boarding pass are checked, went up the escalator toward the security screening, then came back down the escalator to finish off his victim.
“But to have a two to three minute delay to getting an armed police officer to a checkpoint, I think, is too long. And I think what this does, in addition to the tragedy it has caused families and those people wounded, is also another thing that was pointed out, and that is that this shooter could have gotten onto that plane in the process of loading with an open cockpit door. And that presents a whole host of other problems,” Feinstein said.
“So I think you’ve got to take a look at the checkpoint. You’ve got to have the checkpoint protected with armed officers virtually at all times, maybe not TSA, because TSA is up close and personal. They’re doing body searches, you don’t want someone snatching a weapon from a TSA officer — but with other forms of armed police. I really think it’s going to do — it’s — what this has done is expose a big loophole in plane security.”
Feinstein said Congress is currently flummoxed with the question of how to get more mental health treatment for would-be shooters and identify the mentally ill trying to buy guns.
“How do you know that when somebody goes in to buy a gun that they are mentally ill if they don’t appear to be so at the moment? This is, I think, a real dilemma. It is not easy to do,” she said.
“I think — and — and my view has been, after a long time of watching this, since the first mass shooting in 1968 at the Texas bell tower, is that we have to care about the kinds of weapons that are available to people. And here you have a .223 MP-15, MP standing for military and police. That was the supposed use of this weapon. It’s a — it’s an AR-15 type weapon. It’s made by Smith & Wesson. Whether it has a bullet button in it that would make it legal to use in California or to sell in California, I don’t know.”
Ciancia reportedly bought the weapon at a Van Nuys gun store. “I don’t know whether this was a federal firearms dealer or not. So that has to be shown. I’ve heard that it was, but I don’t know for sure,” Feinstein said.
“But I think there’s got to be a way to prevent people who have unstable mental illnesses from obtaining firearms. Now, in Aurora, this young man was clearly unstable. His mother should have known it from a lot of the — of his attitude and behavior and his room. She took him out shooting. Now, that’s a strange thing,” the assault weapons ban author continued. “So how you do this, I wish I knew. How you categorize somebody as mentally not able to buy a firearm, I wish I knew. I don’t happen to know that right now.”