The headline of “Lone Gunman Opens Fire & Commits Suicide” is becoming all to frequent. Major headlines have most notably occurred in the past few months in movie theaters and schools. Today another headline appears in the same manner, but inside an airport terminal and the only victim was the gunman.
While details are still sketchy we know this. This afternoon a 30 year old man walked into Terminal B at Houston’s Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH). Just outside the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) passenger screening checkpoint in Terminal B, the man displayed a firearm and fired multiple shots toward the ceiling. As people began to react a U.S. Immigrations & Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigator (HSI) fired at least once at the gunman. The shot was originally believed to have missed the gunman, but later reports from within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) indicate the ICE HSI Federal Agent’s round struck the gunman, who then reportedly took their own life with their own firearm. It is possible the ICE Agent’s round may have delivered the fatal shot, but that cannot be confirmed at this time.
The total number of rounds fired inside Terminal B, at Houston Intercontinental Airport, has not yet been confirmed, but no one was injured other than the gunman. The gunman was pronounced dead at in the airport. The ICE HSI Agent was transported to an area hospital, which is a standard precautionary measure following an officer involved shooting.
While the public was lucky today in that the shooting at Houston Intercontinental Airport yielded only one victim, the gunman, this will lead to new questions in airport security. Primarily within an airport, security separates the public side from the “sterile side,” but can we intercept people with firearms from entering airports without creating a security system similar to Israel’s layers of airport security?
Aviation security is complex, and airports will always be targets. Technologies in the works, such as Q-Tel’s Genia Photonics laser scanner, which could create significant mission creep for the TSA, may be within the boundaries of other airport security agencies, and provide a non-threatening layer invisible in-depth security.
While Q-Tel’s Genia Photonics scanner posses some significant legal issues, which need to be addressed, the molecular scanner technology is capable of detecting traces of explosives and adrenaline levels, as well as other biological data, processing the information 10,000,000 times faster and with 1,000,000 times more sensitivity than any other threat detection system on the market today. The best part in crowded airports is that this technology can do all this at a range of 50 meters from the target. Putting aside the potential legal and deployment issues with the Q-Tel Genia Photonics scanner, the technology has the benefit of potentially detecting and intercepting a threat before it is a live threat.
Gun control is not a topic I wish to explore, but keeping weapons and legitimate threats out of airports is a topic that we must continually explore.
As the Houston Police Department investigates today’s incident, the national aviation security community should be brainstorming on this problem …
… how do we improve security within airports without increasing the mission creep of national aviation security agencies?